Race versus Social Class: Social Orientation and Cognitive Play in Black and White Middle SES Preschool Children

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Black and white middle socioeconomic status (SES) preschool boys and girls were compared on the frequency with which they interacted socially with peers (people orientation) and on the frequency with which they engaged in nonsocial activity which involved being occupied with some material or task (object orientation). They also were compared on the frequency with which they engaged in the cognitive play types: functional, constructive, and dramatic. No race differences were found for people and object orientation. Sex, but not race, differences were found for level of social interaction. Boys engaged more frequently than girls in the highest level of social interaction. On frequency of the cognitive play types, neither race differences, nor sex differences, nor a race by sex interaction occurred. These findings raise questions about other assumed differences between black and white children. This study underscores the necessity not to treat black children as a monolithic group, but to recognize that sex, SES, and possibly other psychological and sociological characteristics influence their social and cognitive behaviors.