Implications For Future Research

Having described our efforts to understand ethnic minority low SES, urban adolescents' experiences of friendships, we dedicate the remaining portion of this chapter to describing prevailing gaps in the literature, with the hope of inspiring further inquiry into the peer experiences of adolescents from ethnically, socioeconomically, and geographically diverse backgrounds. We believe that such research is critical, for despite changing demographics—resulting in a proliferation of ethnic minority adolescents in the United States (U.S. Census Bureau, 2004)—there remains a dearth of research on ethnic minority adolescents' experiences in the world (Fitzgerald, Lester, & Zuckerman, 1995; Garcia Coll, Akerman, & Cicchetti, 2000; Garcia Coll et al., 1996; Graham, 1992, 1994; Way & Chen, 2000).

Indeed, in order to respond to the needs of such an increasingly diverse adolescent population, several important research agendas should be explored. Future research should examine the multiple intersecting and overlapping contexts that shape the ways in which adolescents experience their friendships and how friendships change and shape the contexts in which they are embedded. Furthermore, multimethod, longitudinal research exploring how the predictors of friendships or the processes affecting adolescent peer experiences change over time is needed. As our own research suggests, exclusive reliance on survey, questionnaire, or observational methods may seriously constrain our understanding of adolescents' friendships.

Contextual-Correlates of Friendships

As noted throughout this chapter, relatively little attention has been paid to the ways in which adolescent friendships are embedded within multiple social networks. In fact, the majority of friendship research has focused on the correlates (e.g., psychological adjustment) and consequences of friendships (e.g., delinquency, drug use, academic outcomes), without concomitant attention to understanding the contextual variables that shape the friendship experiences and the ways in which friendships, in turn, alter these contexts. Such neglect is especially surprising given the proliferation of research exploring how multiple settings or contexts influence child development (Brooks-Gunn et al., 1993; Burton et al., 1995; Seidman, 1991). Despite the fact that adolescents' experiences with peers take place in multiple contexts—including families, schools, neighborhoods, and communities—few studies have used an ecological framework to explore how these contexts influence the nature, type, quality, or experiences of adolescent friendships (DuBois & Hirsch, 1990; Epstein, 1989; Phelan et al., 1994). Accordingly, future research should consider how contextual-features interact with children's friendship experiences. In all probability, the experience of friendships may be quite different for adolescents living in, for example, single- versus two-parent homes, first versus second generation families, dangerous versus safe neighborhoods, economically disadvantaged versus well-funded schools (Elias & Dilworth, 2003); the list is endless.

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