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UK Psychologist’s Latest Book, ‘Unraveling Bias,’ is a Call to Action for Parents

By Lindsey Piercy

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 10, 2021) — Christia Spears Brown, a professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Kentucky, believes we need only to read the latest news headlines to understand the harm caused by discrimination.

As a developmental psychologist, she knows these prejudices don’t just develop as we become adults. Instead, they are formed at a young age, and they shape children who are exposed to bias in their classrooms, after-school activities and yes, even in their own homes — no matter how enlightened their parents consider themselves to be.

“The only way to have a more just and equitable world — not to mention, more empathetic children — is for parents to closely examine biases beginning in childhood and how they infiltrate into our children’s lives,” Spears Brown said.

In her new book, “Unraveling Bias: How Prejudice Has Shaped Children for Generations and Why It’s Time to Break the Cycle,” Spears Brown uncovers what researchers and scientists have learned about how children are impacted by biases because of their race and ethnicity, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation. Additionally, she explores how policies from the past and present, from segregating schools because of race to banning transgender students from playing sanctioned sports — can be changed.

Part science, part history, part current events, and part call to arms, “Unravel­ing Bias” provides readers with the answers to vital questions:

  • How do biased policies, schools and media harm our children?
  • Where does childhood prejudice come from, and how do these prejudices shape children’s behavior, goals, relationships and beliefs about themselves? 
  • What can we learn from modern-day science to help us protect our children from these biases?

“Few issues today are as critical as being aware of the bias and prejudice all around us and making sure our kids don’t succumb to them,” Spears Brown said. “To change lives and advance society, it’s time to unravel our biases — starting with the future leaders of the world.”

As the director for UK’s Center for Equality and Social Justice, Spears Brown strives to help society understand we are all connected, and spreading that message starts with educating the younger generation.

Spears Brown's professional roles as a researcher, teacher and advocate for public policy issues are integrated around her interests in issues of diversity and equality. More specifically, she uses social science research to document how stereotypes and discrimination facing marginalized children limits their academic success and psychological health. Spears Brown also studies why and how children develop stereotypes, in hopes of creating preventive measures.

In addition to penning award-winning research articles, chapters and academic books, Spears Brown is the author of “Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue: How to Raise Children Free of Gender Stereotypes.” She was also the 2019 Society for Research in Child Develop­ment Scholar-in-Residence and regularly speaks with and consults parent groups, schools and teachers, toy and media companies and businesses about reducing the impact of stereotypes.

"Regardless of whether they are rich or poor, boys or girls, cisgender or transgender, gay or straight, Black, white, Latino, or whether they are born in this country or come to this country as refugees or without legal documentation, every child deserves to be treated fairly by their teachers and classmates, every child needs to see themselves represented in media and in their leaders and every child needs to be valued as an individual," said Spears Brown, who believes our society can only succeed when its youngest members are allowed to reach their highest potential.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.