Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Alice S. Carter

Second Advisor

Karen L. Suyemoto

Third Advisor

Pepi A. Leistyna


Racism continues to be a formidable and pressing problem. While racism can take many forms, and overt, legally sanctioned acts of racism have declined, structural racism continues to persist. Structural racism encompasses both institutional racism and the broader effects of social racism. White allies--White individuals committed to using their unearned power and privilege to work to dismantle racism--can play a key role in combating structural racism. Analysis of White ally narratives and models of White racial consciousness reveal a common theme: In becoming a White ally, it is critical to develop both an abstract and personalized understanding of structural racism. However, there is little research exploring the process of developing these understandings. Furthermore, our understanding of how White youth develop abstract and personalized understandings of structural racism is far less complete. From a developmental perspective, early adolescence presents a key window for building an anti-racist stance.

Additionally, White racial consciousness and White ally models and narratives suggest that social and educational experiences can create shifts in racial understandings and attitudes. When considering youth, some of the most immediate factors that come to mind are parents' race-related communications, or racial socialization practices, and school experiences. Yet, there is little research exploring racial socialization practices with White parents and children or examining the efficacy of multicultural anti-bias education with White youth in middle and high school.

This study explored how White youth understand structural racism on an abstract and personalized level and the process of developing these understandings. The relationships between White youth's understanding of structural racism and 1) parental racial socialization practices and 2) participation in a multicultural anti-bias course were also examined. Results indicated that the process of developing structural racism understanding for White youth involves developing an awareness of structural racism, reflecting on this awareness, developing emotional connections to these issues, developing perspective taking skills and empathy, and engaging and struggling with one's identity as a White person. Quantitative and qualitative results provided support for the importance of parental racial socialization practices and multicultural anti-bias education to the process of developing structural racism understanding for White youth.


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