The Influence of Perceptions of Parent Racial Attitude and Intergroup Contact Have on Adolescent Cross-Race Relationships
Edmonds, Christina Maria
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Research on cross-race relationships has demonstrated that contact between races is an important contributing factor to reducing prejudice in both children and in adults; however, cross-race relationships are still rare and infrequent and have been shown to decrease with age. The purpose of this project was to focus on the impact parents have on their children's cross-race relationships. Adolescents' perceptions of parents' messages about these relationships were examined to investigate how this related to the extent of contact with peers from different ethnic backgrounds and the extent to which it impacted adolescents' subsequent evaluations of cross-race relationships. Participants were 347 ninth- and twelfth-graders of mixed ethnicity and across gender. Three factors were proposed to influence their attitudes toward cross-race relationships: perception of intergroup contact, perception of parents' racial attitudes, and perception of parents' messages. The questionnaire consisted of four sections: (1) Intergroup Contact Measure, (2) Cross-Race Friendship and Dating Experiences, (3) Parental Attitudes, and (4) Personal Attitudes and Autonomy. The Intergroup Contact section asked demographic questions regarding the racial make-up and chance at interaction with individuals from a different racial background. The second section, Social Experiences, asked questions regarding the participant's experience with cross-race friendships and romantic relationships. The third section, Parental Attitudes, assessed the participant's perception of his or her parents' attitudes toward cross-race relationships. The fourth section of the survey, Evaluations of Parental and Personal Attitudes, asked participants their opinion on who should make rules for adolescents' dating and friendship choices. Findings indicated that perceptions of intergroup contact had an effect on the formation and development of both cross-race friendships and dating relationships. Perceptions of parent racial attitudes had an effect on the actual experiences participants had within their cross-race relationships. In addition, the findings indicated that parents evaluated cross-race relationships differently and their messages played a key role in shaping the experiences of their children. These findings both contribute and expand on existing literature about adolescent social relationships and theories of prejudice and racial bias, providing further support to intergroup contact theory.