Friendship Across Contexts: The Impact of Friends' Race on School Belonging
This study investigated the links between the percentage of friends of a different race in adolescents' school-based friendship networks and their sense of school belonging. Data from 9,357 adolescents (53% female; 49% White, 18% Black, 18% Hispanic, 7% Asian American) were drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. In my path analysis model, I found that adolescents with fewer friends of a different race (more same-race friends) reported higher school belonging, through the channel of higher perceived safety at school. While students with higher peer support reported higher school belonging, the racial composition of friends was not related to the level of peer support. These relationships showed some variation by students' race and ethnicity, immigrant generation status, numerical marginalization status, and the racial diversity of their school. For numerically marginalized students (i.e., who had less than 15% same race or ethnicity peers), fewer friends of a different race were also associated with lower peer support, which was linked to lower school belonging a year later. Findings suggest that in the context of diversity and inclusion in academic institutions, having more same-race friends still confer unique benefits to the well-being of young people.
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