The Inluence of Cultural Identity and Intergroup Contact on Adolescents' Evaluations of Arab-Jewish Peer Relationships

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Recent research has documented the negative intergroup attitudes between Jewish and Arab youth and adults in the Middle East (Bar-Tal & Teichman, 2005; Brenick et al., 2007; Cole et al., 2003), yet little is known about how these negative intergroup biases manifest in the same cultural communities removed from the daily stress and tension of an intractable conflict, and living in the U.S. Moreover, while negative intergroup tensions between Jews and Arabs and, cultural stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination towards Muslim and Arab groups have increased in the U.S. (Alliance of Civilizations, 2006; Sheridan, 2006), they may still benefit from increased opportunities to engage in intergroup contact, which has been shown to reduce intergroup prejudice (see Pettigrew & Tropp, 2005). However, these attitudes have yet to receive much empirical scrutiny in the developmental literature.

 The present study investigated age related changes in the influence of intergroup contact and cultural identification on evaluations of Arab-Jewish intergroup friendships.  The focus of this study was on how Jewish-American, Arab-American, and unaffiliated (e.g., non-Jewish, non-Arab) American adolescents evaluate exclusion and inclusion in peer situations between Jewish and Arab youth in the peer, home, and community contexts.  This study surveyed 953 ninth and twelfth graders (36 Arab participants, 306 Jewish participants, and 591 unaffiliated participants (259 in the Jewish comparison group and 332 in the Arab comparison group).  

 Overall, all participants were primarily rejecting of intergroup exclusion, more so when the exclusion was based on cultural group membership than when no reason for the exclusion was specified.  Further, males were more accepting of the intergroup exclusion and more accepting of including an ingroup member as compared to females.  Context effects emerged revealing that intergroup exclusion was considered most acceptable in the community context and the least acceptable in the friendship context.  The interactive influence of intergroup contact and cultural identification demonstrated that high levels of intergroup contact and high levels of identity commitment predicted less accepting ratings of intergroup exclusion, whereas high levels of intergroup contact and high levels of identity exploration, led to more accepting ratings of intergroup exclusion.  These interactions varied by cultural group.