An Emphasis on Cosmopolitanism: The Parenting Practices of Multiracial People in Britain

In 2001, the term ‘mixed’ was offered as an option in the ethnicity category of the England and Wales Census, allowing individuals to identify themselves as descending from a multi-racial background. The results of this survey confirmed that at least 2 percent of the population considered themselves as such – and that this number is constantly growing.

Published in Ethnic and Racial Studies, a new study aims to identify and explore this section of the British population – and delve deeper into their parenting habits and the practices they employ in raising their children. Questioning sixty-two participants, authors Miri Song and Caitlin O’Neill Gutierrez asked to what extent it was important for parents to raise their own children with an awareness of their minority ancestries, and how did their own identifications and life experiences shape the ways in which they wished to raise their children.

Most of the sixty-two participants resided in the Great London area and the Southeast, with a small proportion living in the Midlands and the North. Participants’ residential locations and schools varied considerably in terms of their ethnic and racial diversity. All participants had a white parent in common, with focus on individuals with black/white, South Asian/white and East Asian/white backgrounds as these are the most common mixed ancestries in Britain (ONS 2011).

After a comprehensive review of all those questioned, the authors of the study identified four modes of parenting practices: ‘Raised as British’, ‘Mostly British with ethnic symbolism’, ‘Emphasis on minority heritage’ and ‘Cosmopolitanism’. Of the practice ‘Raised as British’, eight participants responded that they reared their children without any specific ethnic emphasis. Nine participants in the second category reported that “while their children were primarily raised as British, it was important retain certain symbolic ethnic and cultural practices”. In comparison, eight participants who identified with the practice ‘Emphasis on minority heritage’ made it very clear that they wanted to raise their children in relations to a specific minority background, making a concerted effort to keep this culture alive.

With over half the participants emphasizing a ‘Cosmopolitan’ mode of raising children, a clear preference to childrearing based around the appreciation of ethnic and cultural diversity has become prevalent through this study. The authors reveal that “the participants who articulated…this sensibility also saw themselves and their children as constitutive of an increasingly interconnected global humanity and/or citizenship.”

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In 2001, the term ‘mixed’ was offered as an option in the ethnicity category of the England and Wales Census, allowing individuals to identify themselves as descending from a multi-racial background. The results of this survey confirmed that at least 2 percent of the population considered themselves as such – and that this number is constantly growing.
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With over half the participants emphasizing a ‘Cosmopolitan’ mode of raising children, a clear preference to childrearing based around the appreciation of ethnic and cultural diversity has become prevalent through this study.
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