Patterns of adult cross-racial friendships: A context for understanding contemporary race relations

Cultur Divers Ethnic Minor Psychol. 2016 Oct;22(4):479-494. doi: 10.1037/cdp0000079. Epub 2016 Apr 14.


Objectives: This study examined patterns, characteristics, and predictors of cross-racial friendships as the context for understanding contemporary race relations.

Method: A national survey included 1,055 respondents, of whom 55% were white, 32% were black, and 74% were female; ages ranged from 18 to ≥65 years. Focus groups were conducted to assess societal and personal benefits. Participants (n = 31) were racially diverse and aged 20 to 66 years.

Results: After accounting for multiple covariates, regression analysis revealed that Asians, Hispanics, and multiracial individuals are more likely than their white and black counterparts to have cross-racial friends. Females were less likely than males to have 8 or more cross-racial friends. Regression analysis revealed that the depth of cross-racial friendships was greater for women than men and for those who shared more life experiences. Increasing age was associated with lower cross-racial friendship depth. Qualitative analysis of open-ended questions and focus group data established the social context as directly relevant to the number and depth of friendships. Despite the level of depth in cross-racial friendships, respondents described a general reluctance to discuss any racially charged societal events, such as police shootings of unarmed black men.

Conclusion: This study identified salient characteristics of individuals associated with cross-racial friendships and highlighted the influence of the social, historical, and political context in shaping such friendships. Our findings suggest that contemporary race relations reflect progress as well as polarization. (PsycINFO Database Record

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Asian / psychology
  • Asian / statistics & numerical data
  • Black or African American / psychology
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Ethnicity / psychology
  • Female
  • Focus Groups / methods
  • Friends / ethnology*
  • Friends / psychology
  • Hispanic or Latino / psychology
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Race Relations / psychology*
  • Social Adjustment
  • Socialization*
  • White People / psychology
  • White People / statistics & numerical data