Friendships Fighting Prejudice: A Longitudinal Perspective on Adolescents' Cross-Group Friendships with Immigrants

Titzmann, Peter ; Brenick, Alaina ; Silbereisen, Rainer

In: Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 2015, vol. 44, no. 6, p. 1318-1331

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    Increasingly, adolescents are growing up in multiethnic multicultural societies. While intergroup prejudice can threaten the multicultural societal cohesion, intergroup friendships are strong predictors of reduced prejudice. Thus, more research is needed to fully understand the development of intergroup friendships and their relations to less prejudicial attitudes. This study addressed two major developmental research questions: first, whether longitudinal patterns of intergroup friendships of native adolescents (i.e., whether or not a native German adolescent has a friendship with an immigrant at different points in time) relate to changes in rates of prejudice about immigrants. Second, whether these friendship patterns that unfold over time can be predicted by contact opportunities, attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control assessed at the beginning of the study. The sample included 372 native German adolescents (14.7years of age at first assessment, 62.3% girls) who showed one of four friendship trajectories over the three annual assessments: they either maintained, gained, never had, or lost a friendship with an outgroup peer. In particular, results showed that adolescents who gained an intergroup friendship over the three time points showed a significant decrease in negative prejudice over the study. All four theorized predictors contributed to explain friendship trajectory membership. Generally, adolescents with many opportunities for contact, positive attitudes about contact, perceived positive social norms for contact, and high levels of behavioral control (self-efficacy) were more likely to maintain a friendship with an outgroup member than to follow any of the three other friendship trajectories (gain, lost, or never had). The pattern of predictions differed, however, depending on the specific pairs of friendship trajectories compared.