Promoting Friendships Within and Across Racial/Ethnic Lines Among Teens

In my job as a middle school teacher, it brings me great joy to see my students forming friendships within their own racial/ethnic group (i.e. feeling comfortable in school speaking their home language) and also forming friendships across racial/ethnic lines that sometimes may seem surprising.

At a stage when adolescents are developing their racial and ethnic identities, it’s important for teens to develop friendships within their own racial or ethnic group and also across racial and ethnic lines.  They need to feel affirmed for who they are and where they come when the pressure is most severe to fit in, but also have the opportunity to find ways to see how they share similarities with those whose skin color is different from them.  Sometimes their experiences are universal while other times they may share similar experiences if they come from a community of color.

Dr. James Moody in an NIH study in 2002 found that in moderately mixed schools, teens gravitated towards friendships within their own racial or ethnic group.  However, in the schools that were the most diverse, they had more diverse friendships.

Dr. Moody’s NIH Study


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