Best Friends Forever?: Race and the Stability of Adolescent Friendships

Jesse Rude, University of California, Davis
Daniel Herda, University of California, Davis

Over the past thirty years, a large body of scholarship has emerged to explain racial patterns in youth friendship. Most of these studies, however, do not explore whether racial difference has an impact on friendship stability. Drawing on Waves I and II of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), our research contributes to the scholarship on youth relationships by analyzing friendship dyads over time with nationally representative data. We use multilevel logistic regression models to examine adolescents' best friend nominations at two points in time. We identify several dyadic and contextual characteristics as key predictors of relational stability. In particular, we show that racial difference is significantly associated with friendship instability. Racial difference remains a barrier to friendship stability, even when controlling for other demographic and personal characteristics (e.g., attitudes toward school, academic achievement, extracurricular interests, substance use). However, the effect of race is partially mitigated when the closeness of the relationship is taken into account. These findings have important implications for those interested in fostering lasting interracial ties in their schools, organizations, and communities.

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Presented in Poster Session 1