Abstract: A Pilot Intervention to Improve Intergroup Relations Among Youth (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

478P A Pilot Intervention to Improve Intergroup Relations Among Youth

Saturday, January 18, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Annahita Ball, PhD, Assistant Professor, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
Candra Skrzypek, MSW, Doctoral Student, University at Buffalo, SUNY, Buffalo, NY
Background and Purpose: Schools increasingly face issues of racial/ethnic conflict, cultural and political divisiveness, and hate crimes that arise from growing student diversity. Few interventions to improve intergroup relations among adolescents have been implemented and empirically tested in high schools. This presentation will present the findings of a pilot study of the Challenge2Change (C2C) Summit – a one-day event within a larger regional initiative to improve intergroup relationships and social action among high school youth. At the Summit, youth participate in a series of interactive dialogues based on intergroup contact theory and facilitated by trained MSW students. Our pilot sought to determine if C2C Summit participation increased youths’ social identity awareness, critical social awareness, intergroup empathy, interest in bridging differences, and cognitive openness.

Methods: Using a single group pre-post design, 45 youth completed self-report surveys both two weeks prior and two weeks after the intervention. Surveys measured social identity awareness, interest in bridging differences, critical social awareness, intergroup empathy, and cognitive openness using established scales with Likert-type response sets. Youth, primarily in grades 10 and 11, identified as White (43.5%), Black (17.4%), Multiracial (13%), Asian American (8.7%), Other (8.7%), and Middle Eastern (2.2%). A multivariate analyses of variance (MANOVA) with repeated measures examined changes in youth outcomes from pre- to post-test. The sample size prevented us from examining differential outcomes by race/ethnicity and gender, but we used descriptive statistics to gain a preliminary understanding of how youth from varying racial/ethnic and gender groups may have experienced the Summit differently.

Results: The MANOVA yielded an overall effect for time (Wilks λ = 0.67, F(5, 40) = 4.01, p = 0.005, η2 = .33). Univariate analyses indicated significant increases for social identity awareness (F(1, 44) = 4.89, p = 0.03, η2 = .10), interest in bridging differences (F(1, 44) = 4.94, p = 0.03, η2 = .10), intergroup empathy (F(1, 44) = 8.21, p = 0.01, η2 = .16), and cognitive openness (F(1, 44) = 5.14, p = 0.03, η2 = .11). Critical social awareness did not change across the intervention period (F(1, 44) = 2.67, p = 0.11, η2 = .06). An analysis of mean scores revealed that all students, regardless of race/ethnicity or gender, reported increases in the outcome variables from pre- to post-test.

Conclusions and Implications: Our pilot indicates that even short-term intervention programs based on intergroup dialogue and intergroup contact theory may have utility among adolescents, especially in relation to the initial understanding youth need to begin to build cross-cultural relationships. Our results showed no changes in students’ critical social awareness, so perhaps more intensive intergroup activities may be needed to affect this outcome. Given the large effect sizes, intergroup dialogue interventions for high school students warrant more attention, both in practice and research. Longitudinal studies are needed to determine if changes are long-lasting, and research should continue to explore the underlying processes of intergroup understanding development among youth. Additional studies should include larger and more diverse samples to assess differential experiences of racial/ethnic and gender groups.