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Children's perceptions of interethnic/interracial friendships in a multiethnic school context

Cinzia Pica, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Abstract

This cross-sectional, mixed-methods study investigated the development of children's perceptions of interethnic and interracial friendships by employing the Perceptions of Intergroup Friendships Questionnaire , a measure designed for this study. A total of 103 children (53 Kindergarten and first graders and 50 fourth and fifth graders) attending one, ethnically/racially-diverse, urban, elementary school in a middle-sized Northeastern city, were interviewed employing the questionnaire. In addition, a sub sample of 17 children (7 Kindergarten and first graders and 10 fourth and fifth graders) were interviewed employing a lengthier semi-structured interview format. Results indicate that K/1st and 4 th/5th graders' differ significantly in their perceptions of intergroup friendships with younger children holding more positive perceptions than older children. African American children demonstrated more positive perceptions of intergroup friendships than European American children. Younger children and girls also held more positive perceptions of intragroup friendships than older children and boys. Children involved in intergroup friendships attributed lower levels of these relationships in the higher grades to prejudice and incidents of racist behavior in the school, along with fewer opportunities to interact with children of different ethnicities/race both within and outside of the school context. Children involved in exclusively intragroup relationships attributed lower levels of intergroup friendships to a normative developmental pattern through which children become increasingly more selective and include only "similar" peers in friendships circles. These differing perspectives are based in children's own racial attitudes and experiences of prejudice. Lastly, children shared their perspectives on how intergroup friendships could be better-supported in schools. ^

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Elementary education

Recommended Citation

Pica, Cinzia, "Children's perceptions of interethnic/interracial friendships in a multiethnic school context" (2008). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3325116.
http://scholarworks.umass.edu/dissertations/AAI3325116

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