The hidden role of teachers: Child and classroom predictors of change in interracial friendships


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

Children in late elementary and middle school tend to form friendships with same-race peers. Yet, given the potential benefits of cross-race friendships, it is important to understand the individual and contextual factors that increase the likelihood of cross-race friendship over time. Guided by contact hypothesis and systems theory, we examine the student and classroom predictors of change in same-race friendships over 1 school year using a sample of 553 African American and European American students in 53 classrooms. Results suggest that same-race friendships increase over time, with greater increases among European American and older children. Youth externalizing behavior predicted a greater increase in same-race friendships; classroom support predicted less of an increase in same-race friendships from fall to spring. Lastly, African American students in classrooms with greater differential teacher treatment were more likely to engage in cross-race friendships over time. Findings are discussed in light of psychological and educational theories and prior research.

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