Intergroup contact theory proposes that positive interactions between members of different social groups can improve intergroup relations. Contact should be especially effective in schools, where opportunities may exist to engage cooperatively with peers from different backgrounds and develop cross-group friendships. In turn, these friendships have numerous benefits for intergroup relations. However, there is evidence that children do not always engage in cross-group friendships, often choosing to spend time with same-group peers, even in diverse settings. We argue that in order to capitalize on the potential impact of contact in schools for promoting harmonious intergroup relations, a new model is needed that places confidence in contact at its heart. We present an empirically driven theoretical model of intergroup contact that outlines the conditions that help to make young people contact ready, preparing them for successful, sustained intergroup relationships by giving them the confidence that they can engage in contact successfully. After evaluating the traditional approach to intergroup contact in schools, we present our theoretical model which outlines predictors of cross-group friendships that enhance confidence in and readiness for contact. We then discuss theory-driven, empirically tested interventions that could potentially promote confidence in contact. Finally, we make specific recommendations for practitioners and policy makers striving to promote harmonious intergroup relations in the classroom.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Sociology and Political Science
- Social Psychology
- Applied Psychology