ASU student explores how parents in multi-racial families communicate about race

By

John Keeney

It’s First Friday at the Children’s Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. Amid the kids exploring giant bubbles, a kiddie car wash, and a paint maze, there is an 8x4 folding table with a red tablecloth draped over it. Behind the table sits the smiling face of Annabelle Atkin, a doctoral student at the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University. An assortment of children’s books featuring characters with diverse racial backgrounds is spread before her. To her right is a colorful poster describing her multiracial families project.

Atkin is working on recruiting multi-racial families for her research. She is exploring how parents of multi-racial families communicate with their children about race, as well as the effects those conversations have on their children’s racial identity and development. Her excitement and interest in this topic shines through when she talks about the families she’s met so far.

“I think [this project] alone is sparking conversations between parents and their kids when they might not normally think to bring it up,” she said. 

Atkin knows firsthand about growing up in a multi-racial family. She was raised in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of an Asian mother and white father. At the age of 14, she moved to Storrs, Connecticut and later attended the University of Connecticut, where she received her bachelor’s degree in psychology and Asian American Studies. Atkin is currently pursuing her doctorate in family and human development at ASU.

Picture of another family at the recruiting table.
A family visits Atkin's table.

As the evening comes to an end a young family approaches the table, the parents shining with excitement. “Hey, that's you! You're multiracial.” They seem excited to see children’s books that represent their family. They begin speaking with Atkin about her project and ask how they can become involved. These are the types of connections Atkin was hoping to make when she set up her table that day.

Atkin is still looking to recruit multiracial families with children of all ages. If you are the parent of multiracial children or if you’re interested in learning more, you can contact Atkin at alatkin@asu.edu or visit the Facebook page: "Multiracial Families Project."