Cross-Ethnic Friendships and Diversity

Cross-Ethnic Friendships and Diversity

Friendship takes on added significance within a child’s life because of the growing importance of peers and the peer group for the individual’s well-being. It provides close companionship, validation, emotional support, and security for adolescence. In specificity, reciprocated friendship helps the individual feel less lonely, giving them higher self esteem, and helping them become less vulnerable to social distress. It is seen that same ethnic friendships are associated with stronger private regard. While on the other hand, cross-ethnic friendships were associated with less perceived vulnerability. Either way, friendship is a great way to promote development in many aspects for adolescents.

Cross-Ethnic Friendships

Image by Dung Phan via Copyright-free

Young children create their own cliques and begin to socialize, finding their own identity within their chosen friend group. Despite the fact that children usually prefer same-ethnic friendships, classrooms are becoming more diverse which is promoting cross-ethnic friendships as children are more focused on similarity on characteristics rather than race/ethnicity when it comes to making friends.

Determinants of Cross-Ethnic Friendships

Homophily (similarity) and propinquity (availability) are two important determinants to look at when looking at friendship choices. They help explain the likelihood of whether youth are willing to cross ethnic boundaries when selecting friends. Homophily refers to the similarities in traits such as gender, race, and ethnicity that adolescents focus on when choosing friends. Propinquity relates to when individuals produce friendship based on the space they share with one another.

Children usually show preference for same-ethnicity peers to the extent where same-ethnic friendships are twice as likely to be endorsed compared to cross-ethnic friendships. Therefore, adolescence is a time when race and ethnicity takes on significance for friendships. However, similarities beyond ethnicity can also factor into the making of friendships. For example, when sharing the same physical space, such as school, this type of situation promotes the perceived similarity in characteristics, giving room for focus on what individuals relate to with each other rather than differences in race/ethnicity. In essence, homophily and propinquity processes work together to encourage cross-ethnic friendships in diverse environments such as schools that have multiple ethnic students sharing a space for learning.

 Functions of Same- and Cross-Ethnic Friendships 

Image by Psycat Games via The Best Icebreaker Group Games for any Occasion ( Copyright-free

There are some unique differences that were found between the friendships of same- and cross-ethnic friendships. Cross-ethnic friendships have benefits relating to a more positive intergroup attitude among both children and adults. Not only this, but there is an increase in less tolerance for exclusion, stronger leadership skills, and less victimization by peers within cross-ethnic friendships. Individuals overall feel socially and emotionally safe at school and there seems to be association with less conflicts within the friendship overall.

In contrast, same-ethnic friendships help individuals who have issues with ethnic identity, as they receive the validation needed from those who share the same identity. This is due to the stronger shared feelings of belonging to a specific ethnic identity, which in return heightens a sense of who they are.

Apart from these differences in same- and cross-ethnic friendships, there is an abundance of similarities, especially if one were to compare these two friendship types based on the six friendship quality indicators. The only difference within the indicators is that same-ethnic friendships scored high on intimacy. There is also no found difference in the stability of the two friendship types. Essentially, cross-ethnic friendships are equally as high quality as same-ethnic friendships, only giving a difference in unique factors that related to the belongingness to one’s ethnic group.

What you need to know about on Social Media and Diversity

One way that friends communicate often is through social media platforms. This is where we are able to stay connected to childhood friends and even meet new friends throughout our lives. Your child’s ethnicity has a lot to do with how your child interacts with their friends through social media. Below I will provide you with information on how your child’s ethnicity plays a role with social media. Also, the information provided is supported by Amanda Lenhart who is a research specialist that focuses on teenagers’ interactions with the internet and Sevgi Bayram-Ozdemir whose research focuses on understanding the roles of family and school in the development of positive and negative inter-ethnic relationships among youth.

Social media use

For some context, the most common apps used to socialize are Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.

Out of the 76% of teens that use social media, these are the platforms that your child may be using often.

Some disadvantages of letting your adolescent child use social media

  • They don’t feel good about themselves once they have finished scrolling through the internet.
    • There has been a recent spike in hispanic youth saying that they feel worse about themselves and their lives compared to their peers because of what is being posted on social media. On social media, it is well known that everyone only posts the good angles and special events going on in their lives. Hispanic youth are comparing their lives in the moment, perhaps in their room by themselves, to what their peers are posting when they are happy and at the beach. About 28% of hispanic teens feel this way compared to only 12% of black youth.
  • Easier to start a fight on social media than it is in person.
    • It is shown that white teens are more likely to have started a fight through social media. To put this into perspective, about 29% of white teens have said that they have started a fight through social media compared to 15% of black teens.

“Openness to Diversity”

Public Policy Institute of California

Something I’d like to share with you is what “openness to diversity” means. It is “an awareness and potential acceptance of both similarities and differences in others,” it can be expressed through someone’s feelings, beliefs, and behaviors. Individuals who live in “super-diverse” societies are most likely surrounded by people of different cultures, skin colors, and ethnicities. However, they are also surrounded by people who are different intellectually, in what they believe in, and what they like to do. This also goes for how their peers live their social lives on social media. The diversity itself isn’t the only benefit of growing up in a multicultural community, the adolescents vary to which “they are interested in and capable of interacting with others who are different from themselves.” Adolescents who were raised in diverse communities tend to show themselves differently online then what they really are behind the device. They do this because often they tend to be jealous that their friends seem to have a “better life” however, they are only seeing a couple of seconds of someone else’s life and not their whole life. People on social media often judge others based on what they post, but no one can tell what their life is really like behind the screen, which can be harmful.

Ethnicity has a lot to do with which friends your child makes. For example, your child may gravitate towards the child who identifies with the same ethnicity.

Bayram Özdemir, S., Özdemir, M., & Boersma, K. (2021). How Does Adolescents’ Openness to Diversity Change Over Time? The Role of Majority-Minority Friendship, Friends’ Views, and Classroom Social Context. Journal of Youth & Adolescence, 50(1), 75–88.
Echols, L., & Graham, S. (2013). Birds of a Different Feather: How Do Cross-Ethnic Friends Flock Together? Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 59(4), 461–488.
Graham, S., Munniksma, A., & Juvonen, J. (2014). Psychosocial Benefits of Cross-Ethnic Friendships in Urban Middle Schools. Child Development, 85(2), 469–483.
Lenhart, Amanda. “Social Media and Teen Friendships.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, Pew Research Center, 31 Dec. 2019,
X Steinberg, L. D. (2020). Adolescence. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.