Peer interactions and the development of peer relationships are among the most central issues in children's lives. Peer relationships have been studied from a developmental and environmental perspective. For example, friendships differ in form, content, and meaning, depending on age (see Durkin, 1995). Peer relationships and friendships also differ depending on cultural and social characteristics and circumstances. These cultural and social factors can be conceptualized and examined in different ways, including in terms of ethnicity.
Ethnic preferences and cross-ethnic relations have been studied using measures such as ratings of the number of friends and their ethnic backgrounds. Cross-ethnic relations and friendships are found to be relatively uncommon, increasingly so with age (see Schneider et al., 1997, for a review). This has been found in various countries (e.g., Aboud, Mendelson, & Purdy, 2003; Clark & Ayers, 1992), including the Netherlands (e.g., Dors, 1987; Teunissen, 1988). Two major explanations are being put forward for this uncommonness.
First, there can be real cultural differences, making it less likely that cross-ethnic relationships develop. From a cross-cultural perspective, friendship patterns can be studied in relation to cultural adjustment among ethnic minorities and migrants as well as the cultural meanings of friendship and the norms and values guiding friendship behavior (e.g., Argyle et al., 1986; Wheeler, Reis, & Bond, 1989). For example, ethnic majority and minority groups often differ in their endorsement of collectivist cultural values.