My research focuses on how children develop gender and ethnic stereotypes and how that process can be disrupted, and how children and adolescents understand and perceive individual-level and structural (i.e., policy-based) forms of gender and ethnic discrimination. My research is centered around the school context, with a focus on the role of teachers and peers, peer norms, and academic outcomes.
Specifically, my research focuses on 3 themes. First, I examine children’s and adolescents’ perceptions of gender and racial/ethnic discrimination. We have conducted studies about perceptions of discrimination by teachers and coaches (Brown & Bigler, 2004; Brown, 2006), and studies about sexual harassment experienced by girls (Leaper & Brown, 2008; Jewell & Brown, 2014). I have examined ethnic peer and teacher discrimination faced by immigrant children and their parents, funded by the Foundation for Child Development and UK Center for Poverty Research (Brown & Chu, 2016; Brown, 2017; Brown, 2019). More recently, we are focusing on how the sexual harassment and the sexual objectification of middle school girls negatively affects their academic outcomes (Brown, 2019; Nelson & Brown, 2019), and how middle school youth experience and intervene in instances of gender-based harassment directed at low gender-typical adolescents (Tam & Brown, 2019).
Second, I examine the development of social group stereotypes. I have examined children’s stereotypes about immigrants (Brown, 2011), Muslims (Brown et al., 2017), gender non-conforming boys and girls, and with Rachel Farr, children in same-sex families. As part of this focus, we also look at ways to reduce stereotypes among children (Aboud & Brown, 2011).
Finally, we examine how children understand social inequality and politics. For example, with Prof. Rashmita Mistry, we have studied how children understand the overlap between race and poverty (Brown, Mistry, & Bigler, 2007). We recently published a multi-site study across the US, headed by Rebecca Bigler and Megan Patterson, looking at how children understand the impact of gender on politics and their understanding of the political process (Patterson et al., 2019).