A study in Canada says Canadian pre-schoolers prefer to play with kids more like them.

Are Canadian parents ingraining bias in their kids?  Or French-Canadians?  Hard to know. Participants were recruited from six daycares located in Montreal and its suburbs: 30 mostly second-generation Asian-Canadians and 30 French-Canadians. Children were paired with peers they had known for at least three months. According to the research team, social mores likely prompted a lack of interaction between cultures.   

French-Canadian children used longer sentences when interacting with same-ethnic peers, yet decreased their verbal interactions when playing with Asian-Canadian peers. "Children of both groups adapted their behaviours by speaking less in the case of French-Canadian children and by speaking more in the case of Asian-Canadian children," says study co-author Dale Stack, a professor in the Concordia University Department of Psychology.

The research team also observed how multicultural playmates could influence conflict among peers of the same ethnicity — findings that contradict previous studies.

"We found Asian-Canadian and French-Canadian children seemed to prefer interacting with kids of the same ethnic background," says Nadine Girouard, a research associate in the Concordia Department of Psychology and member of the Centre for Research in Human Development (CRDH). "Both groups were more interactive with children of the same ethnicity and, when matched with kids from another background, preferred solitary play.

"We observed that Asian-Canadian children frequently removed or attempted to remove toys from each other.  When interacting with peers of the same ethnicity, Asian-Canadian pre-schoolers were more competitive."

The findings are published in the European Journal of Developmental Psychology.