Building and Maintaining Self-Esteem in Children of Color

Self-esteem is the value judgement or degree of worth a person attributes to his or her self-image.

Since the 1930’s, psychologists and sociologists have noted how important is for children of color to see positive images that look like them.

Ophira Edut, writing at, states “…Dolls are where girls get early lessons about self-image and identity. When people have told me that “Barbie’s just a doll,” I’ve argued that she’s a metaphor for a social predilection toward whiteness, and the privileges that go along with it. Girls of color can suffer from an identity distortion when they don’t see images of themselves represented in popular culture and the media. There’s a self-esteem issue here.”

We have compiled a list of related articles on building self-esteem and identity in children of color. All articles are reviewed to ensure that the content is in keeping with the philosophy of Dolls Like Me. To submit your Web site or article for consideration, please send the link to our attention at [email protected] Your article will be reviewed and considered for inclusion.

Our Favorite Links:

Media Messages on Diversity, Race and Gender:

A Relationship Between Discrimination and Mental Health is Identified in Children of Color, Secondary Article Also Supports Relationship

We discuss how CNN takes on Kids, Race and Parenting at the Dolls Like Me Blog

Dawn Friedman writes at Antiracist Parent why Having a Multicultural Doll Ghetto is Not Enough.

Self-esteem is a problem for many African-American girls is the topic of discussion in this Louisiana Weekly article.

Black adolescent girls’ self-esteem: Do gender-role identity and racial identity have an impact? Review an excerpt or purchase Tamara Renee Buckley, Ph.D.’s entire dissertation on the topic of self esteem in Black girls.

From’s Newsgroup article on Self Esteem, “Many studies find links between self-esteem and school achievement. One study found that a child’s self-concept predicted his ability to learn to read in the first grade.”

In The Unkindest Cut: The History of Black Paper Dolls, writer DaNeen Brown quotes Black paper doll historian, Arabella Grayson, “Toys are the way children are taught values and beliefs. And they were being marketed for mass appeal. . . . Images that children see, that permeate mass culture, have an effect on them. They embrace them or reject them, but they are always responding to them.”

Preparing Children for a Multicultural World. “Even before they can talk, children begin to notice differences in skin color, eye shape, language, hair, etc. And they start absorbing information about biases and stereotypes from television, peers, and, especially, parents and teachers…” A must-read for every parent and teacher. From the October 1999 newsmagazine Children’s Advocate, published by Action Alliance for Children.

A Girl Like Me. Take a look at this documentary created by a brilliant 17-year-old who revisits Dr. Kenneth Clark’s black/white doll study on self-esteem, to much the same results 50 years later.

A White Mommy with Three African American Daughters Provides Advice on the Importance of Hair Care:

Brown Like Me: A Parenting Article:

Bubbe Got Back: Ethnic Identity and Body Image Through the rearview Mirror. Ophira Edut, body image and cultural identity expert writes, “Heaven help us if we admit in public that, you know, a lot of Jews do have kinky hair, or full lips, or prominent noses, or big butts,” in her article on ethnic identity in the Jewish community.

Building Racial Identity, PACT Adoption Alliance:

Building Racial Identity: Hair is an Adoption Issue, PACT Adoption Alliance:

“But Mommy, White Dolls are Prettier” :Teaching Your Daughter to Embrace Her Own Beauty – The War on Girls Parenting

Caring for Your African American or Biracial Child’s Hair, Article:

Experiences of the First Generation of Korean Adoptees, Adoption Institute:

Finding Dolls for Children of Color, Kansas City Star Article:

Five Tips on Buying Gifts for Biracial Children, Family Matters Web Site: Parenting, Child Development:

How Children of Color Develop a Sense of Racial Identity,

How Do Children of Color Develop a Sense of Racial Identity? Helping Children Develop a Sense of Identity, Scholastic:

How to Help a Child Struggling with Racial Identity:

How to Raise a Biracial Child, NYS Citizens’ Coalition for Children:

Interracial Voice

Parenting Biracial Children:Issues for Black/White Biracial Child- Rearing, Gibbs Magazine:

Parenting in Multiracial Families , HopkinsSchool District, St. Louis:

Raising Biracial Children and Multiracial Children to Feel Good About Themselves, Family Matters Web Site: Parenting, Child Development:

Raising Multicultural Kids Who Are Proud of Their Identities, Mothering:

Tangled Roots, Interviews with African-Americans, Irish-Americans, and biracial African-Irish-Americans

Transracial Adoption: Love is Not Enough, NYS Citizens’ Coalition for Children:

Who Is Black? One Nation’s Definition

Why It Matters…Diversity on Television, A Report from Children Now Summer 2003:

NOTE: If you find a non-working link, please let us know at [email protected] Thank you.

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