Ethnically Diverse Friendships May Reduce Peer Victimization in Children

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 John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Dianna


    September 27th, 2011 at 3:45 PM

    Do you know why they experiece less peer victimization? because they have friends and have made friends and they know how to be social. I think that kids who have problems with others are those who have problems making friends across the board, no matter whether they cross ethnic or color lines or not. Bullies and pests pick up on this kind of solitary individual and these are the ones that typically are going to be mistreated.

    However I would hazard a guess that in certain areas in the country these friendships that cross the color line are going to be frowned upon and maybe even forbidden. In those places the victimization might pick up some.

  • RCG


    September 27th, 2011 at 4:40 PM

    Bullies like to pick on children less fortunate than they are. That is why children that don’t have friends are victimized so much. In addition to this a lack of as support group is also a major factor. Why ethnical diversity plays as big of a role as it does is a mystery to me.

    I think that it could be do to the fact that making friends of a different race requires greater social skills in order to step out of their comfort zone. Much like how same gender friendships are so much easier for children to build and maintain. To have the social skills necessary to relate to someone with such a different background might be what it takes to be victimized less.

  • A carolina

    A carolina

    September 27th, 2011 at 11:09 PM

    the reason why friendship between children from different ethnic backgrounds is mainly because they get to know and learn about the other is basic human instinct to go against something thats different and with friendships like these that factor is completely eliminated!

  • zac


    September 28th, 2011 at 5:49 AM

    having grown up in an minority dominant neighborhood,I can say that it has taught many things to me,many things that I would never have known gives you more exposure and familiarity with different kind of people and it makes you less of a bullying target if you’re like that.I definitely think so.

  • katharine


    September 28th, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    Can easily see how a class that is a little more ethnically diverse could gang up on a kid who does not make friends redaily with other kids not from the same racial background as them. If they only associate with one group then others might take this as a sign that they are not being accepted and could retaliate. Great sign when kids are able to look past those outside markers and become friends with people that they enjoy being around and who are good for them and to them.

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