Building friendships with children across ethnic lines can broaden a child’s experiences and increase racial and ethnic tolerance. But a new study suggests that developing these types of relationships, and any friendships, can actually minimize peer victimization in adolescents. “As such, it has been widely documented that children with friendships are less likely to experience peer victimization, regardless of its form, and display lower levels of psychosocial adjustment problems than are children without friendships,” said Yoshito Kawabata and Nicki R. Crick, authors of a recent study out of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. However, they noted that peer victimization can also be linked to classroom diversity and socioeconomic status. In order to determine if children who formed friendships across racial and ethnic lines experienced less victimization, the team evaluated 444 fourth grade students, comprised of European Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos and African Americans. The students were chosen from 10 inner city schools and from classrooms that were made up of at least three different ethnic groups. More than half of the children in the study were receiving free or reduced lunch and fell into a low socioeconomic class.
The researchers assessed the children at the beginning of the study, and again six months into the school year. They evaluated them for social status, victimization, friendships and peer support. Using self-reports and teacher reports, the team gauged the level of physical and emotional victimization. They also evaluated how many cross-racial friendships each child had and how much peer support they received. They discovered that as the boys’ cross-racial relationships diminished, their same-race friendships increased. The opposite was found to be true for the girls, who sustained their friendships with children regardless of their race. They added, “Results demonstrated that more cross-racial/ethnic friendships were uniquely related to relative decreases in relational victimization and to relative increases in peer support over and above the contribution of classroom diversity and same-racial/ethnic friendships.”
Kawabata, Y., & Crick, N. R. (2011, September 12). The Significance of Cross-Racial/Ethnic Friendships: Associations With Peer Victimization, Peer Support, Sociometric Status, and Classroom Diversity. Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025399
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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