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Intra- and Interracial Best Friendships During Middle School: Links to Social and Emotional Well-being


  • This article was written by the authors in their private capacity. No official support or endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education or the United States is intended or should be inferred.
  • This research was supported in part by grants from the National Science Foundation (021859 and 0721383) and the William T. Grant Foundation (2642) to Niobe Way and Diane Hughes.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Rebecca Kang McGill, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC 20202. E-mail:


This study examined patterns of intra- and interracial best friendships during middle school and their associations with social and emotional well-being. We hypothesized that intraracial friendships would be beneficial for racial or ethnic minority youth because such relationships provide protection and solidarity in a discriminatory society. Results revealed that most youth had only intraracial best friends during middle school, but 38% had at least one interracial best friend. Associations between interracial best friendships and well-being varied by racial group; Black and Asian American youth with only interracial best friends reported lower emotional well-being than those with only intraracial best friends. Additionally, intraracial best friendships were associated with higher conflict than interracial best friendships, especially for Black and Latino youth.