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Is Diversity Enough? Exploring Intergroup Friendships in Italian Multiethnic Schools

TitleIs Diversity Enough? Exploring Intergroup Friendships in Italian Multiethnic Schools
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsPica-Smith C, Contini R M, Ives B
Secondary TitleItalian Journal of Sociology of Education
Date Published11/2018
PublisherPadova University Press
Place PublishedPadova, IT
ISSN Number2035-4983
Keywordsintergroup contact, intergroup friendships, middle school, multiethnic classrooms, southern Italy

Italian schools are increasingly diverse spaces in which children of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, and cultural-linguistic practices interact daily. Thus, these spaces provide fertile ground for a continuum of relational experiences from positive intergroup relationships and friendships to tensions and experiences of discrimination and marginalization. Research has demonstrated that diverse spaces can be ideal for positive intergroup contact, intergroup dialogue and the formation of intergroup friendship, which have been associated with prejudice reduction and a decrease in intergroup anxiety. Employing a theoretical framework based on intergroup contact theory (Allport, 1954) and research on intergroup friendships, (Pettigrew & Tropp, 2000; 2008; Pettigrew, Tropp, Wagner, & Christ, 2011; Lease & Blake, 2005) this article adds to a nascent interest in sociology of education research on intergroup relations and friendships in Italian multiethnic schools. A large sample (n=1314) of middle school students attending multiethnic classrooms in Southern Italy were surveyed to understand the extent of their intergroup relationships, perspectives on intergroup relations, and intergroup cooperative as well as discriminatory behaviors. Findings reveal that the majority of the children in the sample report having intergroup friendships. Native Italian children report fewer intergroup friendships while non-Italian children report higher levels of intergroup friendships. Yet, native Italian children report getting along better with peers while non-Italian students report getting along less well with peers.