The Value of Vulnerable Ties: Interethnic Friendship Dissolution and Interethnic Attitudes

Location: TBD

Adolescent interethnic friendship is of fundamental importance in increasingly multi-ethnic societies because it is one of the strongest predictors of positive interethnic attitudes. Once interethnic friendships exist, it is also important that they last, but there has been surprisingly little research on this topic. Are interethnic friendships more likely to end than same-ethnic friendships? And, what happens to interethnic attitudes when interethnic friendships disappoint? Using longitudinal data of 7,337 adolescents in 504  English, German, and Dutch high school classes, I examine individual, network, and contextual explanations for interethnic friendship dissolution versus same-ethnic friendship dissolution and its effects on interethnic attitudes. Results suggest that interethnic friendships are at higher risk for dissolution because they tend to be weak ties, but that interethnic friendships are more robust in networks that provide more social support. In addition, adolescents who lose interethnic friendships have less positive interethnic attitudes than adolescents who keep interethnic friendships, but their interethnic attitudes are still more positive than adolescents who never had or took the chance on interethnic friendship.

Sanne Smith is a visiting scholar at Stanford University. She received her PhD in the Department of Sociology at the University of Utrecht.