Multiracial youths show similar vulnerability to peer pressure as whites

Jul 10, 2012

Researchers who studied a large sample of middle- and high-school students in Washington state found that mixed-race adolescents are more similar to their white counterparts than previously believed.

Experts have thought that multiracial , the fastest growing youth group in the United States, use drugs and engage in violence more than their single-race peers. and greater vulnerability to peer pressure have been blamed for these problems, due to the belief that as mixed-race struggle to fit in they become more likely to fall in with bad crowds.

Multiracial youth in the new study, by researchers at the University of Washington and the University of Chicago, reported fewer behavioral problems than seen in previous studies. The findings are published in the July issue of the .

Youth who reported greater use of alcohol and instances of violent fights also reported having friends with similar problem behaviors. But when asked how likely they would be to cave to peer pressure, multi- and single-race participants did not differ.

, including income level and parental marital status, also had a role. Multiracial youths who reported higher rates of problem behaviors were more likely to come from .

"People usually portray multiracial children as facing greater challenges growing up than single-race children," said Yoonsun Choi, lead author and associate professor at the UChicago's School of Social Service Administration.

"What we're finding is that they do have an increased risk for problems with drugs and violence, but those problems aren't as extensive as what has been found before. Maybe there's a trend going on, where problems are declining for multiracial youth," she said.

The study suggests that aimed to reduce the negative influences of peers will likely have a universal effect across adolescents.

"We consistently find a strong connection between negative social influences of peers and ," said co-author Todd Herrenkohl, professor in UW's School of Social Work. "Intervention programs need to recognize the strong social and environmental influences that reinforce those behaviors."

About 1,800 seventh and ninth graders attending public and private schools completed a survey twice – one year apart – that included questions about violence, yielding to , drug use, and whether their friends used drugs.

For alcohol use, for instance, 55 percent of multiracial youths compared with 47 percent of whites indicated that they had tried alcohol during the first year that they completed the survey.

At that same time-point, 11 percent of multiracial youths compared with 5 percent of white youths reported violent behavior, measured by a question about whether participants had ever beat up anyone so badly that the person had to see a doctor or nurse.

The participants comprised an even mix of boys and girls at different socioeconomic levels. About 13 percent of the students were from various multiracial backgrounds, including Latino and white, Native American and white, Asian-American and white, and others. Of the single-race students, most – 71 percent – were white. The rest of the single-race participants were Latino or Asian-American. Native Americans and African-Americans were left out because too few were in the sample.

The survey is part of the International Youth Development Study, which investigates predictors of alcohol use and other behavior problems and is led by UW's Social Development Research Group.

Explore further: Teachers' scare tactics may lead to lower exam scores

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A face by any other name: Seeing racial bias

Oct 28, 2008

If Barack Obama had taken his mother's surname and kept his childhood nickname, American voters might literally see "Barry Dunham" as a quite different presidential candidate, a new study suggests. A name significantly changes ...

Recommended for you

Teachers' scare tactics may lead to lower exam scores

1 hour ago

As the school year winds down and final exams loom, teachers may want to avoid reminding students of the bad consequences of failing a test because doing so could lead to lower scores, according to new research published ...

Poll: Big Bang a big question for most Americans

7 hours ago

Few Americans question that smoking causes cancer. But they have more skepticism than confidence in global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and have the most trouble believing a Big Bang created the universe 13.8 ...

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Teachers' scare tactics may lead to lower exam scores

As the school year winds down and final exams loom, teachers may want to avoid reminding students of the bad consequences of failing a test because doing so could lead to lower scores, according to new research published ...

Hyperbolic homogeneous polynomials, oh my!

Cutting-edge mathematics today, at least to the uninitiated, often sounds as if it bears no relation to the arithmetic we all learned in grade school. What do topology and combinatorics and n-dimensional ...

Poll: Big Bang a big question for most Americans

Few Americans question that smoking causes cancer. But they have more skepticism than confidence in global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and have the most trouble believing a Big Bang created the universe 13.8 ...