Timeline 1900 – 2017

Mixed Race Children: A Study of Identity (1987)

Mixed Race Children: A Study of Identity, 1987

This pioneering book by Anne Wilson (1955- ) was published by Allen and Unwin in 1987. Wilson’s research was conducted in England from October 1979 to May 1980 and focused on children of white/black (mainly West Indian) parentage. Using ‘snowball’ methods of recruitment, she was able to achieve a sample of 39 mothers and their 51 children of ages six to nine. The measurement instrument used with the children comprised 21 photographs, 14 of individual children and 7 of pairs of adults, and the book published the children’s and mothers’ interview schedules in its appendices.
A major purpose of the research study was to establish whether ‘mixed race’ children were ‘misfits’, stranded between racial identities, as was widely believed in Britain at that time. Wilson found that most of her children expressed a positive identity and did not feel a conflict in having mixed parentage: this was especially so if their mothers saw them as mixed or black and were secure about their own position. Wilson concluded that 14% of the ‘mixed race’ children had a white identity, 8% a black identity, 20% were inconsistent, and 59% saw themselves as neither black nor white, but as brown, ‘coloured’, ‘half-and-half’ or ‘half-caste’. Those with this ‘intermediate identification’ were usually children living in multiracial areas, whilst children who saw themselves as white or with inconsistent identities were more likely to reside in mainly white localities.
While reviewers argued that her findings would have been strengthened had she made a comparison of ‘mixed race’ children with matched samples of black, white, and Asian children, her study has been highly influential, being cited by around 120 other scholars and extensively used by those involved in the welfare and care of ‘mixed race’ children.
Anne Wilson also published a number of related papers including:  A. Wilson. ‘Mixed Race’ Children in British Society: Some Theoretical Considerations. British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Mar., 1984), pp. 42-61; A. Wilson. Mixed race children: an exploratory study of racial categorisation and identity. New Community, Vol. IX, No. 1, 1981, pp. 36-43; and A. Wilson. In-between: the mother in the interracial family. New Community, Vol. IX, No. 2, 1981, pp. 208-15.