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It's never too late for ‘us’ to meet ‘them’: Prior intergroup friendships moderate the impact of later intergroup friendships in educational settings

Authors


Ananthi Al Ramiah, Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3UD, UK (e-mail: ananthi.alramiah@psy.ox.ac.uk ).

Abstract

Background. In this paper, we focused on mixing in educational settings between members of Catholic and Protestant ethnoreligious groups in Northern Ireland.

Aims. In Study 1, we examined whether opportunities for contact at home and at university were associated with greater actual out-group friendships, and whether this friendship was associated with a reduction in prejudice. We also assessed whether the impact of out-group friendships at university was moderated by experience of out-group friendships outside university, such that the prejudice-reducing effect of university friendships was stronger for those with fewer friendships at home. In Study 2, we assessed opportunities for contact and actual out-group friendships at prior stages of the educational system and their relationship with prejudice.

Sample(s). In both studies, our participants were students at universities in Northern Ireland (Study 1 N= 304 and Study 2 N= 157).

Methods. We analysed the data using multiple regression and structural equation modelling.

Results. First, opportunities for contact were positively associated with self-reported out-group friendships in all domains and stages of the educational system. Second, having more out-group friends was associated with reduced prejudice. Finally, the relationship between out-group friendships and current levels of prejudice was moderated by prior levels of out-group friendships (at home in Study 1; and at secondary and primary school in Study 2).

Conclusions. Contact, in the form of out-group friendships, was more powerful when it was a novel feature in a person's life. We discuss these findings in terms of the impact of mixing in educational contexts, especially in Northern Ireland, and outline suggestions for future research.

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