Young minds need cultural balance, says psychologist

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 January, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 January, 2003, 12:00am

The absence of Sasha in the Bratz line-up in Hong Kong is not something to be taken lightly, according to a psychologist.

Excluding other racial and cultural reference points could affect children's attitudes to other races and even to themselves, said Nicholas Banks, a British psychologist who specialises in racial issues.

'It's very important that children feel they are mirrored in society. It validates their importance and significance,' said Dr Banks. 'But the absence of figures that look like them can result in a subtle invalidation of this social significance. Over a long period of time, they will come to think they have no significance in society.'

Alternatively, if a child from one race is denied access to images and references of another race it may result in that child believing other groups to be insignificant.

'They can become ethnocentric, which means they will believe only their race matters. This is exactly what happened in 1950s and 1960s television where portrayal of family life only included white people,' Dr Banks said.

But a change in attitude and the way other races are portrayed on TV today means children can more easily identify with other racial groups.

Dr Banks said that bearing this in mind, a product should not be excluded just because a distributor thought people could not identify with it.

'Children do identify with what they see on television, and children in Hong Kong will have seen other races - which means they may want to buy Sasha.'