Skin tone bias among African Americans: Antecedents and consequences across the life span

Elizabeth A. Adams, Beth E. Kurtz-Costes, Adam J. Hoffman
2016 Developmental Review  
This article is a developmental review of research on skin tone bias and its consequences for African Americans. In the first section of the paper, we summarize research findings on skin tone attitudes, preferences, and stereotypes from childhood through adulthood. Next we summarize literature regarding African Americans as the target of skin tone bias. This section is organized in terms of individual and contextual factors that shape whether and how skin tone bias occurs; factors that moderate
more » ... the target's reaction to such bias; and consequences of bias, including psychosocial and health outcomes, economic and educational disparities, and repercussions within the legal system. We conclude by discussing limitations of the extant research. In a society where racism is still common, skin tone is a visible cue that activates culturally embedded prejudices and stereotypes that may lead to race-based discrimination. This review summarizes research on skin tone bias toward African Americans, filling a gap in the existing literature by considering skin tone bias both from the perspective of the perceiver and the target; by examining age differences in effects; and by delineating antecedents, moderators, and consequences that shape the experiences of skin tone bias. We begin by discussing a few lexical and methodological considerations, then review empirical findings (mostly 1990-present) on skin tone attitudes, preferences, and stereotypes during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood from the perspective of the perceiver. Our review of skin tone bias from the perspective of the target is organized through a schema that distinguishes among antecedents of skin tone bias, factors that moderate its impact, and the consequences of skin tone bias for African American children, adolescents, and adults (see Figure 1 ). As we describe in detail below, antecedents are characteristics of the individual and context that influence whether and how skin tone bias will occur. Moderators shape the individual's reaction to skin tone bias, and consequences are noted in psychosocial, health, educational, economic, and legal domains. Before beginning the literature review, we address terms used in this research domain.
doi:10.1016/j.dr.2016.03.002 fatcat:c4fvdl4uh5gk5ju25223snrvbe