The Hidden Role of Teachers: Child and Classroom Predictors of Change in Interracial Friendships

Elise Cappella, Diane L. Hughes, Meghan P. McCormick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Children in late elementary and middle school tend to form friendships with same-race peers. Yet, given the potential benefits of cross-race friendships, it is important to understand the individual and contextual factors that increase the likelihood of cross-race friendship over time. Guided by contact hypothesis and systems theory, we examine the student and classroom predictors of change in same-race friendships over 1 school year using a sample of 553 African American and European American students in 53 classrooms. Results suggest that same-race friendships increase over time, with greater increases among European American and older children. Youth externalizing behavior predicted a greater increase in same-race friendships; classroom support predicted less of an increase in same-race friendships from fall to spring. Lastly, African American students in classrooms with greater differential teacher treatment were more likely to engage in cross-race friendships over time. Findings are discussed in light of psychological and educational theories and prior research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1093-1124
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Early Adolescence
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017


  • classroom support
  • cross-race friendship
  • psychosocial development
  • teacher differential treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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