National Institute on Aging

Strong Racial Identity Can Help Adolescents Seek Out More Diverse Friendships

A new study by researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of Arizona finds that middle schools boys who feel secure about their own racial identity are more likely than other middle school boys to seek out and make friends with others who are not a member of their racial or ethnic group.

A large group of middle school students were surveyed on their racial attitudes and on their friendships and behavior. The results showed that boys who demonstrated clarity about their ethnicity or race had more a more diverse set of friends in follow-up surveys. The study did not find a similar result for girls who tended to befriend people from their own racial and ethnic group.

Deborah Rivas-Drake, an associate professor of psychology and education at the University of Michigan and the lead author of the study, stated that “parents need to open lines of communication. It’s just like sex and drugs – you want someone your kids can check in with. In this case, the topic is race.” Dr. Rivas-Drake says that when middle schoolers have resolved any racial issues they are able to move on and feel more comfortable with other groups. This can lead to less prejudice and better equip these individuals to function in an increasingly diverse society.

The article, “Ethnic-Racial Identity and Friendships in Early Adolescence,” was published on the website the journal Child Development. It may be accessed here.


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