Evaluating the Impact of a Cross-Group Friendship Intervention on Early Adolescents
The rapidly changing ethnic composition of the United States has resulted in a heightened need to create inclusive environments within schools. Research suggests that intergroup contact, specifically cross-group friendships, can positively impact students in diverse school contexts. Cross-group friendships have been associated with less peer victimization, better leadership skills, and heightened levels of psychosocial safety among youth. In this study, an existing adult friendship intervention (the Fast Friends Task) was adapted for adolescents and implemented in the school context. The effects of participation in the intervention on interpersonal closeness, ethnocultural empathy, and outgroup attitudes were examined. Middle school participants (N = 139) were paired with same-sex partners from different ethnic backgrounds and assigned to the control group or intervention group. Data were collected through pre- and post-surveys. Research questions were (a) does the adapted version of the Fast Friends Task generate interpersonal closeness, (b) does participation in the adapted Fast Friends Task increase empathy, and is empathy a mediator of the relationship between interpersonal closeness and outgroup attitudes, and (c) does participation in the adapted Fast Friends Task improve outgroup attitudes and increase early adolescents’ desire to interact with outgroup members? Results of a series of two-way mixed level analyses of variance indicated interactions between intervention and time on interpersonal closeness and desire to interact with outgroup members. The intervention did not result in changes in ethnocultural empathy, thoughts or warmth towards the outgroup. Implications and limitations of the study are discussed.