Summary of the Neighborhood Context

Quantitative and qualitative research on the links between neighborhoods and adolescent friendships has consistently found neighborhoods to influence the ways in which adolescents obtain, engage, and maintaining friendships with peers (Brooks-Gunn et al., 1993; Jencks & Mayer, 1990; Seidman, 1991). In our own research, however, when adolescent perceptions of the neighborhood climate were considered in combination with the effects of family and school contexts, the relative influence of neighborhood climate on adolescent friendship quality was lost. Such findings underscore the limitations of evaluating contextual influences in isolation. It is also possible, as our qualitative data suggest, that although the neighborhood climate may indeed influence the extent to which adolescents choose to spend time with friends outside of school, it may have less of an affect on adolescents' perceptions of friendship quality of their friendships.

Ethnic and Gender Differences

Strikingly, our quantitative analyses have suggested few gender or ethnic differences in the association between various contextual-level variables and adolescent friendships. However, our qualitative data has indicated that gender and ethnicity shape the ways in which adolescents experience contexts such as schools, neighborhoods, and friendships. For example, our interviews suggest that Black and Latino students' frustration with the preferential treatment by teachers shown toward Asian American students in school creates a hostile peer climate for Asian American students. Furthermore, boys, particularly Black and Latino (the boys who are most likely to be the victims of violence in urban areas), express frustration with the violence and "backstabbing" in their neighborhoods and respond by "keeping to themselves" rather than spending time with their friends outside of school. Finally, the wariness of adolescents' parents toward non-familial friends may be influenced by being a part of an oppressed minority group. Although this theme may also be evident among European American, middle-class families as well, the level of distrust of non-family members within Black, Latino, and Asian American, low SES families is likely to be more severe given their history of ethnic/racial and SES discrimination.

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