Direct and interactive links between cross-ethnic friendships and peer rejection, internalizing symptoms, and academic engagement among ethnically diverse children

Cultur Divers Ethnic Minor Psychol. 2015 Apr;21(2):191-200. doi: 10.1037/a0038451. Epub 2014 Dec 8.


The present study examined direct and interactive links between friendships and social, academic, and psychological adjustment problems (i.e., peer rejection as nominated by same-ethnic and cross-ethnic peers, teacher-reported academic engagement, and teacher-reported internalizing symptoms) among school-age children in multiethnic schools (n = 509, age: 9-10). The data, which included 2 time points with a 6-month interval, were drawn from a relatively large-sized, short-term longitudinal study. Results showed that cross-ethnic friendships (not same-ethnic friendships) were associated with greater academic engagement concurrently and predated decreased peer rejection and internalizing symptoms longitudinally, even after controlling for the availability of same-ethnic peers and classroom diversity. Furthermore, cross-ethnic friendships (not same-ethnic friendships) moderated the link between relational victimization and increased peer rejection and greater internalizing symptoms, such that this link was evidenced for children with fewer cross-ethnic friendships. However, the moderation effect was contingent upon the type of outcome variables and the ethnicity of the child. For example, the buffering effect against the negative contribution of relational victimization to internalizing symptoms was found particularly for African American children. The findings are discussed based on theories of normative development, ethnic socialization, and intergroup relations.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Crime Victims / psychology
  • Ethnicity / psychology*
  • Female
  • Friends / ethnology*
  • Friends / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Peer Influence
  • Schools
  • Social Class
  • Social Identification