Best Friends Forever? Race and the Stability of Adolescent Friendships

Document Type

Article - Merrimack Access Only

Publication Title

Social Forces

Publication Date


Abstract/ Summary

Our research uses two waves of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to analyze the stability of same- and cross-race friendships. We find the following: First, interracial friendships are less stable than same-race friendships, even after controlling for a variety of contextual and dyadic characteristics, such as school racial composition and friends’ similarities in attitudes and behaviors. Second, measures of dyadic similarity (aside from race) are weak predictors of friendship stability. Third, measures of reciprocity and closeness are strong predictors of friendship stability and appear to dampen the effects of racial difference. These results indicate that race is of continuing significance in structuring the social lives of American adolescents. They call into question the assumption that the factors that drive friendship formation also drive friendship stability. And, they suggest that more attention should be paid to the quality of interracial friendships, as measured by degree of reciprocity and closeness.