“Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” An Analysis of How Adolescents Form Friendships
In American schools the ethnic composition has shifted drastically in the last decade and urban areas have seen the changes more than any other area (Echols and Graham 462). With this shift in demographic it is to be assumed that the nature and behavior of adolescents in these new environments would change. More diversity within the school would produce more diversity in the student’s social lives. In actuality, studies show that there is a preference among children to form friendships with those who share the same race or ethnicity as they do. With the exposure to more diversity and different cultures why are adolescents reaffirming the age-old adage “birds of a feather flock together”?
Dr. Beverly Tatum an expert in the development of racial identity, has insight as to why children may cluster together and seek those more familiar to them during the many stages of adolescence. When children begin to explore themselves and their many identities, race becomes the most prominent. Tatum says specifically “As children enter adolescence, they begin to explore the question of identity, asking ‘Who am I? Who can I be?’ in ways they have not done before” (Tatum 52). When children look to define who they are themselves they see their reflection in their peers. For this theory Leslie Echols, doctor of developmental psychology and Sandra Graham, doctor of education attribute the principles of propinquity and homophily. Propinquity being described as “individuals are more likely to associate with others who are readily available to them” and homophily as “contact is more likely to occur between individuals who are similar to each other than between individuals who are dissimilar” (Echols and Graham 462). With these terms in mind, it seems that friendship formation is based on how available and alike those around you are.
Aside from propinquity and homophily, in “What Is a Good Friend: A Qualitative Analysis of Desired Friendship Qualities” written by then student Christopher P. Roberts-Griffin the subject of attractiveness is brought into question based on the psychological assumptions made when we see those that are attractive: “Physically attractive people are judges to be kinder, stronger, more outgoing, more interesting, more exciting dates, more nurturing, and better people.” (Roberts-Griffin 4). This premise holds true when you look at the social structure and hierarchy of schools starting predominately in middle school. For instance, in regard to prepubescent children Dr. Tatum states “If you walk into racially mixed elementary schools, you will often see young children of diverse racial backgrounds playing with one another…crossing racial boundaries with an ease uncommon in adolescence” (Tatum 52). Based on this quote one begins to wonder, where is the divide? What exactly changes? While Tatum herself attributes the specific change...