pi_nameSandra Graham, Rashmita Mistry, Negin Ghavami
pi_departmentUCLA Department of Education (Graham & Mistry); LMU Department of Psychology (Ghavami)
pi_titleProfessor (Graham & Mistry); Assistant Professor (Ghavami)
other_key_personnelTaylor Hazelbaker, M.A., GSE&IS Graduate Student
project_summaryFriendships matter throughout the life course; from early childhood to old age, people generally fare better when they have friends than when they do not (Hartup & Stevens, 1999). With a school-age population that is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, developmental researchers have begun to pay more attention to ethnicity and friendships, drawing distinctions between friends of one’s own ethnic group and friends of a different ethnic group. At present, however, there is very little developmental research on the function of cross-ethnic friendships, particularly how they develop across time from childhood through adolescence, factors that promote or hinder their formation or the psycosocial and academic correlates of having cross-ethnic friendship. In addition, there is virtually no research exploring the development of children's friendships along multiple dimensions such as ethnicity and SES. Our long-term goal is to address these gaps by following a sample of children across the critical middle childhood and early adolescent years and to use the knowledge gained from the study to develop innovative interventions that can harness the power of cross-ethnic friendships across all grade levels at school.
The purpose of this summer research is to gather additional pilot test data on two newly developed measures of children's intergroup attitudes about others, based on social group characteristics such as race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status (SES) and gender. The measures are to be included in a larger, longitudinal study examining the development of children's friendships from early elementary school through middle school. We have developed these measures to be developmentally-appropriate for young students (i.e., 1st - 3rd grade students), to be engaging for students to complete, and to be more ecologically-valid. We aim to assess if the measures are valid and reliable for use with elementary school-aged children.
Aggregated data on measure efficacy will be included in a grant proposal being prepared for submission to the National Institutes of Health (October submission) to conduct a longitudinal study of children's friendships. For the larger study, we aim to survey children in first through fifth grades in ethnically diverse elementary schools in Los Angeles along with their parent/guardian. Using well-established measures in the social developmental literature and in our own previous research, we will study the number of same-ethnic and cross-ethnic friendships at each grade level, the quality of those friendships, and whether cross-ethnic close ties are related to three meaningful psychosocial outcomes identified in the literature: better attitudes about the ethnic groups to which the friends belong, greater social competence, and less social vulnerability. In addition, we will examine the academic advantages of having cross-ethnic friends. Furthermore, we are interested in examining the extent to which children's same-ethnic and cross-ethnic friendships vary systematically along other key social dimensions such as SES. Given the prominence of gender (i.e., being a boy or a girl; preferring more boy-like vs. girl-like activities and toys) in children's friendship choices, particularly in the early elementary grades, we will also the extent to which same- and cross-ethnic friendships vary by gender.
goalsTo assess the validity and reliability of two newly developed measures of children's beliefs and attitudes about others, based on social group characteristics such as race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status (SES) and gender.
benefits_of_researchCurrent measures of children's intergroup attitudes (i.e., attitudes about others based on social group membership) rely either on survey questions subject to social desirability or involve implicit bias measures (e.g., IAT - implicit association tasks that measures the strength of associations between social groups (e.g., girls) and evaluations (e.g., good, nice) or stereotypes (e.g., athletic, smart) that are less reliable with preadolescent age children. Furthermore, existing measures focus on a single identity domain (e.g., gender or race/ethnicity) and limit how many groups are represented. Our goal was to design an alternative set of measures that would feel more authentic to young children - such as the concept of an ideal classroom or an Instagram post - while assessing their intergroup attitudes and beliefs in an unobtrusive manner and subject to less social desirability. The task is designed to be developmentally appropriate, engaging, and interactive. It also allows for us to assess children's beliefs at the intersection of group memberships (e.g. an Asian girl from an affluent background) - as peers present in the real world. Finding from this pilot test will help inform our larger study, and ultimately help us test some of our study hypotheses about the benefits of diverse friendships for reducing bias and stereotypic beliefs about others.
dissemination/publicationsData from this study will not be published. Children's responses will be aggregated and reported only in our grant proposal.
selection_criteriaChild must have completed kindergarten - 5th grade (rising 1st - 6th graders) at the time of assessment, and have parental consent to participate. No other exclusionary criteria will apply.
methodsChildren will be invited to participate in the study by one of the project PI's or a trained graduate or undergraduate student. Younger students (i.e., those in 1st - 3rd grade) will complete the task individually; older students (4th - 6th grade) can complete the task in small groups (4-6 students, depending on space).
The interview should take about 15-20 minutes, depending on the child's age and level of engagement.
After securing assent, students will be asked some basic background information (i.e., grade, age/grade in school) and asked to complete two tasks:
1) An Ideal Classroom task in which they get to select 10 friends that they would most like to have in their ideal (hypothetical classroom) and 5 friends they would least like to have in their ideal classroom
2) An Instragam-like task in which students will view a series of fake instagram posts featuring a child and some of their favorites toys, and asked to answer a series of questions about their perceptions of the child's race/ethnicity, gender, and SES, as well as questions about how much they would like to get to know the child, sit next to them at school, or invite them over for a playdate.
After completing both measures, children will be asked to identify the race/ethnicity, gender, and SES backgrounds of some of the Bitmoji characters included in the Ideal Classroom measure to assure that their perceptions were consistent with the researchers perceptions.
Children will be thanked for their time and walked back to their respective classrooms by the researcher.
instruments_otherTwo measures - Ideal Classroom and Instagram-Like task - developed for this study
instrument_explanationsBoth measures have been adapted from previous research on similar constructs used with different measurement tools.
Ideal Classroom: Ask children to pick who they would like to include or not include in their ideal classroom. The paradigm of an ideal world scenario is adapted from previous research (Cameron, Rutland, & Brown, 2007; Flanagan & Kornbluh, 2017; Hazelbaker, Griffin, Mistry, & Bailey, 2019). Intergroup attitudes will be assessed by presenting participants with an array of bitmojis that vary by gender (boy, girl), ethnicity (Asian, Black, Latino, White), gender expression (typical, atypical), and SES (rich, poor). Children will be asked to select 10 bitmoji students out of all of the 32 possibilities they are shown who they would want to have in their ideal classroom and 5 that they would least like to have in their ideal classroom.
Instragram-like profiles: This measure has been adapted from a previous study that used Facebook profiles as stimuli for similar questions (Ghavami & Peplau, 2017; Ghavami & Mistry, 2019). First, participants will be presented with Instagram-like profiles of other (fictitious) children. These profiles vary by gender (boy, girl), ethnicity (Asian, Black, Latino, White) and gender typicality (typical, atypical). To minimize fatigue, each participant will be randomly assigned to view only 4 profiles out of the total 32 possible combinations. Each profile will contain a headshot photo, the person’s birthday, gender, ethnicity and what toys the student is interested in playing with to indicate gender typicality (e.g., trucks vs a tea set). Participants will then answer questions about these profiles based on their affective responses and behavioral tendencies toward the child (e.g., like to play with or sit next to at school; Cuddy et al., 2007).
justification_of_methodsCurrent measures of children's intergroup attitudes (i.e., attitudes about others based on social group membership) rely either on survey questions subject to social desirability or involve implicit bias measures (e.g., IAT - implicit association tasks that measures the strength of associations between social groups (e.g., girls) and evaluations (e.g., good, nice) or stereotypes (e.g., athletic, smart) that are less reliable with preadolescent age children. Furthermore, existing measures focus on a single identity domain (e.g., gender or race/ethnicity) and limit how many groups are represented. Our goal was to design an alternative set of measures that would feel more authentic to young children - such as the concept of an ideal classroom or an Instagram post - while assessing their intergroup attitudes and beliefs in an unobtrusive manner and subject to less social desirability. The task is designed to be developmentally appropriate, engaging, and interactive. It also allows for us to assess children's beliefs at the intersection of group memberships (e.g. an Asian girl from an affluent background) - as peers present in the real world.
risk_minimizationMinimal or no risk. We think children will enjoy completing the measures.
deception_debriefingNo deception. All children will be actively assented prior to participating in the study. They will be informed that we (researchers) have developed a couple of new measures to get at how children their age think about things, including how they think about others kids their age and who they would and would not want to have in their classroom or to hang out with at school. We need their help in making sure that our measures make sense to kids and are interesting to them. At the end, we will ask if they have any questions and anything they would like tell us about our measures - if they liked them (or not), thought they were interesting, etc.
confidentiality_data_storageConsent and assent forms and all data collected for this study will be stored in locked cabinets, in a secured key-access office in Moore Hall (Prof. Mistry's office suite). Consent and assents forms will stored in a separate locked cabinets and office than the data forms (which will include only de-identified data).
relationship_prior_contactProf. Mistry has previously led and conducted several studies at the Lab School, including a researcher-educator partnership project with teachers in ECE and Primary and is the co-PI of the LTL program evaluation with Prof. Alison Bailey, but has no current active projects at the school.
Prof's Graham and Mistry are faculty in the Department of Education.