Study finds birds of a feather do not flock together when it comes to attitudes
Young people are constantly warned what will happen if they hang out with the wrong crowd, but a new study finds that when it comes to prejudices and stereotypes, friends do not have much influence. The study by psychologist Harold D. Fishbein, Ph.D., and sociologist Neal Ritchey, Ph.D., found no significant effects from the attitudes of friends on an adolescent's prejudices or stereotypes. Their findings will be presented at the 107th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in Boston.
The study involved administering questionnaires to 426 ninth and eleventh graders at two nearly exclusively white Catholic schools, one for males and one for females. The students answered questions measuring five types of prejudice and stereotyping, including prejudice against those with AIDS, blacks, homosexuals, fat people and sex role stereotyping. Each student also listed up to five of their closest friends in the classroom and answered questions about his or her closeness to each. The researchers did not find significant effects of friend's attitudes on an adolescent's prejudices or stereotypes, regardless of whether the focus is the attitude of the two closest friends, the closest friend, or two reciprocated friends. Moreover, these findings were not affected by the emotional distance or closeness adolescents felt with their parents.
"There are a number of possible reasons why the prejudices and stereotypes of
adolescents are not influenced by their friends," said Dr. Fishbein. "First,
friends are chosen mainly on the basis of shared activities and discussions of
prejudice and stereotyping may be rare in adolescents' interactions with their
friends, which would produce limited influence. Secondly, adolescents may
influence each others' behaviors, but no
Contact: David Partenheimer
American Psychological Association