Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair(s)

Renee V. Galliher


Renee V. Galliher


Melanie M. Domenech Rodríguez


Donna Gilbertson


Gretchen Peacock


Linda Skogrand


This study included 114 Native adults and 6 Native/non-Native pairs of friends (age 18-25). Experiences and attitudes for close interethnic friendships were investigated. Friendship patterns and predictors were quantitatively assessed for the 114 Natives, with qualitative examination of the development and qualities of the six friend pairs.

Results of quantitative analysis revealed that 80% of this sample reported friendship investment with Whites, and 55% reported friendship investment with same-tribe members. Over 90% of participants were open to engaging in friendships with member of any ethnicity or race. Approximately 98% of participants reported being targeted for racial discrimination, with most reporting some distress, often at a low level. Significant positive correlates of past and future friendships with Whites included: household income in childhood, identification with White culture, racial/ethnic composition of students in college, multicultural experiences, and past support from parents. Multiple regressions included as significant predictors of past friendships: past parental support (t = 6.488, p < .001), past multicultural experiences (t = 3.852, p < .001), racial composition in college (t = 3.083, p = .003), and diversity climate in high school (t = 2.468, p = .015). Multiple regressions for future friendships with Whites revealed as significant predictors: past friendships (t = 5.187, p < .001), and past parental support (t = 2.507, p = .014).

Qualitative findings revealed authenticity/acceptance, communication, similarity, and trust as aspects of close friendships with non-Natives. Opportunities to share cultural teachings, and shared cultural interests helped friendships develop. Participants’ descriptions of their friendships largely coincided with contact/opportunity theories, with propinquity allowing homophily, reciprocation, and disclosure to develop within the friendship. All friendship pairs weathered periods of time during which contact between friends became infrequent, but all participants asserted that they were still close friends during those periods. Findings illuminate the prominence of interethnic friendships in the lives of Native youth, and positive intergroup attitudes expressed within those relationships.