Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science

Direct and Indirect Friends in Cross-Ethnolinguistic Peer Relations

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science

Direct and Indirect Friends in Cross-Ethnolinguistic Peer Relations

Article excerpt

Contact with children from another ethnic group is now considered one of the most important experiences for enhancing multi-cultural respect (Raabe & Beelmann, 2011). Beyond the benefit of contact in facilitating positive attitudes toward outgroup members, psychologists have remarked on the added value of having a close friend from the outgroup (Davies, Tropp, Aron, Pettigrew, & Wright, 2011; Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006). Other types of peer relations are currently being examined and they show a more complicated picture of intergroup relations (Aboud & Brown, 2013; Graham, Taylor, & Ho, 2009). A recently examined relationship with promising potential is that of the "extended" or indirect friend, that is, an outgroup friend of an ingroup friend (Wright, Aron, McLaughlin-Volpe, & Ropp, 1997). Because of their potential benefits, direct and indirect friendships are now the target of school interventions that aim to increase their number, but few have been evaluated (e.g., Aboud & Sankar, 2007; Cameron, Rutland, Hossain, & Petley, 2011; Wright & Tropp, 2005). The present study examined a setting where children from two ethnolinguistic groups attended segregated classes in the same school, while some 40% of the students additionally attended an integrated afterschool program. The objective was to compare the effects of these segregated and integrated experiences (e.g., contact activities and norms) on children's direct and indirect friendships with the outgroup. The data, some longitudinal, thus build on recent investigations into outgroup friendship (defined in ethnic, linguistic, and/or religious terms, e.g., Feddes, Noack, & Rutland, 2009), and how it might be differentially affected by homogeneous and mixed environments (e.g., Christ et al., 2010). Finally, by assessing children from the second and fourth grades, we address a developmental framework of childhood peer relations.

Distinguishing Direct and Indirect Friends

Research on direct outgroup friends has accumulated over the past few decades, with most studies of integrated schools finding that at least one third of majority ethnic students have a crossethnic friend (e.g., for review, see Graham et al., 2009). Having a close outgroup friend is expected to arouse a number of positive emotions associated with all friendships, such as exciting companionship, self-esteem, and emotional security (Aboud, Mendelson, & Purdy, 2003). Outgroup friendships also make salient group norms about the acceptability of harmonious relations (Davies et al., 2011; Turner, Hewstone, & Voci, 2007). Consistent with this is research showing a strong association between close friendship and outgroup attitudes among children (e.g., Aboud et al., 2003; Feddes et al., 2009; Jugert, Noack, & Rutland, 2011). In particular, primary schoolchildren were found to be less biased if they attended integrated and bilingual schools (Jugert et al., 2011; Rutland, Cameron, Bennett, & Ferrell, 2005; Wright & Tropp, 2005), hung around with more outgroup peers and had a higher quality friendship with one (Aboud et al., 2003). However, outgroup friendship is not all positive. Cross-ethnic mutual friendships are consistently less stable and entail fewer shared activities than same-ethnic ones (Kao & Joyner, 2004; Schneider, Dixon, & Udvari, 2007), although qualities such as loyalty and companionship may be as high as same-ethnic friendships (Aboud et al., 2003; Aboud & Sankar, 2007). Friends also may have more opportunities to experience and witness cross-ethnic exclusion and name-calling (Graham et al., 2009).

Research on indirect friends is much more recent. Defined as simply knowing an ingroup member who has an outgroup friend (Wright et al., 1997), it has been measured by asking students, for example, how many of their German friend's friends are Turkish on a 4-point scale from none to all (Feddes et al., 2009), or how many of their White British friends have Asian friends (Turner et al. …

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