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"FOR THE PAST FIVE YEARS, my colleagues and I have conducted in-depth, individually administered 30to 40-minute interviews [regarding forming stereotypes and evaluating acts of exclusion based on gender or race] with more than 500 children and adolescents living in different communities around the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region....

"We were heartened by the strong and direct ways in which children and adolescents rejected exclusion—and their elaborate understanding of fairness and justice. Thinking about justice is natural for children. What is often challenging is to determine when fairness should take priority, particularly in situations involving deeply ingrained social expectations or beliefs based on group membership.

"Fairness becomes more elaborate with age, but so do stereotypes.... In our view, experiencing positive inter-group contact in the elementary school period is particularly important for reducing inter-group tension in middle school, when social cliques and groups become highly salient forms of self-definition. If we wait until high school to discuss these topics, our task of facilitating a sense of justice and equality in our next generation is much more difficult."

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How many alarms do we need?
December 2, 2002

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