In my line of work as a professor of developmental psychology, it is my belief that every parent or adult who works with children be knowledgeable, aware, skilled, and open to the possibilities that each child presents. The focus of every parent or caregiver should be to assist every child to reach their potential by supporting them and their families in every way possible.
A thorough grounding in child development prepares you to guide children to their most favorable potential. Knowledge of how a child develops and changes enables you to see how particular behaviors or thoughts in a child’s social, physical, emotional, intellectual, and language expand over time. Armed with a deep understanding of children and family's needs, challenges, and capacities, you can be more effective when interacting with children.
I have often wondered how race and ethnicity affects the life of a child. What parent of an African American child has not wondered about their child’s psychological life? This is one of the reasons I chose to become a professor and researcher of child development. In my opinion, it is important that we explore differences among African American youth and how development occurs within the context of family, community, and culture. With an understanding of child development and an appreciation of the role that the environment plays in the lives of African Americans, we can better describe, interpret, and thoughtfully act on our observations of children, families, and communities.
There is a lack of conventional research on African American youth. Though race and ethnicity have been major concerns among some social scientists, there is still a limited amount of work in this area. Historically, the vast majority of North American children were white; however, the United States racial and ethnic population is in the midst of a profound transformation. Experts predict that the population growth rate for African Americans and Hispanic children will constitute the majority of children in the near future. Comparatively, this pattern of growth is not similar for white children.
Although African American children and adolescents have a strong presence throughout the United States, there is very little research in psychological texts that solely examines the increasingly socioeconomic, political, and emotional complexities of their lives. Unfortunately, the majority of the work published includes a disproportionate focus on the problematic nature of African American youth. Given the changing demographics (such as economic diversity, family structures, education, etc.) of the African American community, it is time for much needed change that examines their lives with the context of resilience and positive developmental outcomes. It is critical that parents and child development experts understand child development from the perspective of African American children in relation to existing and new developmental theories. This is the reason why I was excited to work with Yvette R. Harris on the second edition of this book.
Our book, The African American Child: Development and Challenges, Second Edition, is the first book to provide a holistic overview of issues that are germane to the lives of African American children. I believe that the information from this text can help individuals become more knowledgeable of development, but it also provides information on understanding African American children and adolescents reach their full potential as they develop within an increasing complex society.