Parents’ and Classmates’ Influences on Adolescents’ Ethnic Prejudice: A Longitudinal Multi-Informant Study


Beatrice Bobba, University of Bologna, Italy
Susan Branje, Utrecht University, the Netherlands
Elisabetta Crocetti, University of Bologna, Italy


The family and classroom are important contexts that can contribute to the socialization of ethnic prejudice. On the one hand, parents can explicitly and implicitly convey their own views and beliefs and manage their offspring’s intergroup experiences and social environment. On the other hand, classmates, who become an important referent point in adolesence, can provide youth with descriptive and prescriptive information about the social world which orient their attitudes toward diverse others. However, most studies on the role of parents and classmates as socializing contexts for the development of ethnic prejudice in adolescence have relied on cross-sectional designs and have usually examined these social agents separately, thus limiting the understanding of the socialization processes at play. Thus, the current study aimed to examine unique, relative, and synergic influences of parents and classmates for changes in youth’s affective and cognitive ethnic prejudice and whether interpersonal (i.e., social identification with the family and classmates’ groups) and individual (i.e., adolescents’ age) factors could moderate the longitudinal associations at play.


Participants were 688 ethnic majority (i.e., Italian) youth (49.13% girls; Mage = 15.61 years, SD = 1.10 at T1), their parents (nmothers = 603, nfathers = 471; Mage = 49.51 years, SD = 4.62 at T1), and classmates. They completed online questionnaires at two time points over the course of one year (T1: January/February 2022; T2: January/February 2023). The questionnaires comprised measures of affective and cognitive ethnic prejudice and, for adolescents only, measures of identification with their family and classmates’ groups. Multiple Cross-Lagged Panel Models were estimated in Mplus to examine the unique contribution of parents (Model 1) and classmates (Model 2), as well as their relative (Model 3) and synergic (Model 4) influences.


Regarding unique contributions, parents’ cognitive prejudice led to increased cognitive prejudice of adolescents, while classmates’ cognitive prejudice was associated with increased affective prejudice. Interestingly, these associations held regardless of youth’s level of identification with either social group. Regarding their relative effects, when examined together, the associations found in the previous models were maintained, highlighting how each context contributes to non-overlapping changes in different facets of prejudice. These effects were identical for younger and older adolescents. Last, parents’ and classmates’ influences were found to significantly interact in different ways for the affective (i.e., adverse compensatory effect) and cognitive (i.e., amplifying effect) dimensions of prejudice.


This longitudinal and multi-informant study tackled the role of parents and classmates as crucial socializing actors for the development of adolescents’ ethnic prejudice. Overall, the current findings suggest that the affective and cognitive dimensions of prejudice might be sensitive to different social clues and that adolescents draw from multiple contexts to orient their feelings and thoughts about diverse others. Therefore, future interventions should strive to comprehensivly target both parent and peer contexts to prevent the development of prejudice and negative intergroup outcomes in adolescence.

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