Growing Up in America Analyzes the Impact of Race and Culture

Professor Brad Christerson examines effects of socialization on teens

May. 13, 2010 By Jenna Bartlo

In an increasingly diverse society, the experience of growing up in America is influenced by the cultural environment a child is raised in. As an associate professor of sociology at Biola, Brad Christerson delves deeper into the topic of race and its influence on teenagers in his new book Growing Up in America: The Power of Race in the Lives of Teens.

Christerson and co-authors explored the topic because not much attention is focused on how "socialized experiences" with family, school, religion and peer groups “impacts racialized outcomes” of children and teens. They wanted to see how socialization affects adolescents’ worldview and interactions with others.

“Racial inequality is still a central feature of American society,” said Christerson. “My co-authors and I were interested in how teenagers of different racial and ethnic backgrounds experience life differently and how those differences contribute to those inequalities into adulthood.”

Co-authoring with Korie Edwards, associate professor at Ohio State, and Richard Flory, associate professor at USC, Christerson had access to the National Survey of Youth and Religion (NSYR), a study that interviewed thousands of teenagers with diverse backgrounds from all over the country. The study analyzed how race and culture affect how teens think and socialize based on their background.

The process of writing the book and co-authoring with other writers was helpful as different strengths and perspectives allowed for a better understanding of the issue. Edwards’ focus of research is on the intersection of religion and race and ethnicity while Flory focuses on religion, culture and urban life. According to Christerson, the book is much stronger than it would have been if only one person tried to tackle the subject.

Growing Up in America gives a first-hand account of how teens understand the world and their surroundings through their “racial and ethnic background experiences.” The book also confronts the issues of dealing with advantages and disadvantages associated with one’s race.

“Race and ethnicity affect our lives in so many ways that we don't even realize,” said Christerson.  “In the book we focus on how we are socialized by our parents, our friends, our churches, and our schools and how that socialization is quite different depending on what racial/ethnic group we are a part of.”

The socialization that young adults go through has a profound affect on who they become as adults, affecting many aspects of their life. For instance, socialization affects the roles people have in society, the kinds of spiritual lives they lead, emotional health, and ability to thrive as humans.

Christerson wants to further study this phenomenon and plans to write another book since the NSYR will conduct a follow-up study in 5 years with the same group of adolescents that were interviewed.

“We want to write another book about their transition to adulthood, what they ended up doing, and how those things are related to their experiences as teenagers,” said Christerson.

He also believes that the way Christians were socialized as kids conditions their spiritual life and there is a need to understand how that affects our relationship with God and others. 

Written by Jennifer Thach, Media Relations Intern. Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Coordinator, can be reached at (562) 777-4061 or through email at jenna.l.bartlo@biola.edu       

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