INTRODUCTION Attitudes and Behaviors of College Students Towards Interracial DatingInterracial dating has always been a controversial issue. People may say they have no problem with it to sound as if are up with the times or politically correct. However, their behaviors may not reflect their attitudes. Could this possibly be because they have no problem with interracial dating and just do not choose to date out of their own race or could this be from the influence of their parents? If everybody who said they had no problem with interracial dating actually had no problem with it we would have more than less than 5% of interracial marriages in the United States (Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1998). College students may have no problems dating outside their race. However, if their parents do not approve then the child is more likely to not date outside their race. Due to the parents dislike for interracial dating the child could develop a dislike for interracial dating. In a study conducted by Jones and Smith (2002), with 620 never married sociology undergraduate students, interracial dating was assessed by way of surveys and questionnaires. Almost half of the participants reported positive attitudes towards interracial dating but only a quarter of those participants reported dating someone of a different race. In addition, African-American participants reported being twice as likely to be open to interracial dating. Greater acceptance among African-American’s was also reported in another study that investigated interracial friendships and romantic relationships research has shown that blacks have a more favorable attitude toward interracial romantic relationships than Whites (e.g. Davidson & Schneider, 1992). It was reported that in black families the mother gave the final say-so in the acceptance of interracial dating. In white families, it was the father who played the key role in acceptance of interracial dating (e.g. Knox, Zusman, Buffington, & Hemphill, 2000). Regardless, of type, black or white, the parents do have an active involvement in their child’s decision-making process. If the parents are not accepting of interracial dating the child may avoid the situation to further avoid parental consequences. A study conducted by Mills (1995), hypothesized that subjects who reported favorable attitudes on interracial dating would also report more family acceptance on interracial dating and that subjects who reported greater dislike of interracial dating would also report less family acceptance on interracial dating. However, no significant statistically results were found (e.g. Mills, Daly, Longmore, & Kilbride, 1995). Some studies have been conducted on the possible reasons as to why interracial relationships are not as common, such as Wilensky’s reports on a study assessing interracial relationships among adolescents conducted by Kara Joyner (2002). She found that one of the prevalent factors was “rebellious” youth, especially among White adolescents. Interestingly enough she also found that youth who are attracted to the same sex are more likely to date outside of their race because of generally more openness to new experiences and limited option to choose from (e.g. Wilensky, 2002). In one article reasons were given as to why interracial marriages are so uncommon between African-Americans and Whites, “persons of different races think differently about important issues…the greater the differences between two people, the greater the drain on their marital energy” (e.g. Warren, 2002). However, a study done by Fiebert with 196 males and 367 females from college students in California reported “ high willingness in all ethnic groups to be romantically involved as well as an absence of sex difference with regard to both attitude and experience” (e.g. Fiebert, Karamol, & Kasdan, 2000). This could be attributed to the setting of the study being a liberal arts college and the greater willingness of students to explore new experiences. One theory that has been used to explain behavioral aspects on why one would interracially date is the general exchange theory. It states that, ” given the differential status of Whites and racial minorities, a White individual will enter into a relationship with a racial minority only if the minority group member has a surplus of some quality (money, physical attractiveness, social skills, etc.) that allows the White individual to be adequately compensated for accepting the lower status of the racial minority” (Elder, 1969). A study conducted by Yancey (1998) that tested this theory had several hypotheses. Yancey’s general idea was because of different social pressures interracial daters face, individuals would have different incentives than non-interracial daters. The first hypothesis was, “ Whites seeking interracial relationships, more so than racial minorities, and Whites who do not seek interracial relationships tend to seek relational assets, physical attractiveness, and financial security.” Basically, Whites look for characteristics to boost their status. The second hypothesis was, “ Blacks seeking interracial relationships tend to offer relational assets, physical attractiveness, and financial security more than do Whites and more than do Blacks who do not seek interracial relationships.” Basically, Blacks offer characteristics that boost status. Contrary to the hypothesis, Yancey’s results found, from observation of personal ads from various publications, that Whites who have interracially dated do not seek relational assets more than Blacks who have interracially dated. It may be possible that Whites, who advertise openly interracial unions, probably do not see a minority racial status as a downfall. Therefore, these individuals would not have to have an exchange to compensate (Yancey, 1998). In our study, we took it a little further and tried to see if there was a direct association between students behavior due to parental influence. Instead of just researching the views of the student we wanted to find out why they had these views or why their behavior did not reflect their views. We gave them a matching exercise where they had to match different races into couples on how they saw fit. This reflected their projected behavior. Then they completed a written survey on their views and their parents’ views on non-traditional dating. This reflected their views and their parents’ views. We hypothesized either a majority of participants had no problem with interracial dating because of the accepting college environment away from parents or, a majority of people had no problem with interracial dating but would match the couples to the same race because of preference due to parental beliefs.
METHODParticipants Participants consisted of 100 college students over 18 years old, 50 male and 50 female with no specific ethnic background. We recruited the participants through convenience sampling on a strictly volunteer basis from our religious, math, and psychology classes. Some participants from intro level courses received extra credit for participation.Materials Plain white paper was used to print the two copies of the conformed consent for given to each participant. Plain white paper was used for the written survey and the matching exercise. The matching exercise had two parts: one had six pictures of 3 African-American and 3 Caucasian males with a corresponding personality description immediately under each picture. Each picture has a letter beside it for measuring and identification (A-F). The second part had six pictures of 3 African-American and 3 Caucasian females with a corresponding personality description immediately under each picture. Each picture had a number beside it for measuring and identification (1-6). The pictures in the matching exercise were cut out by the investigators from various magazines (Delia’s, Alloy, Vibe, Ebony, & Rolling Stone). The written survey had 12 questions that asked general information about the participant such as: school rank, gender, and ethnic background; the survey also asked their views on non-traditional dating and their parents view on non-traditional dating. The answer sheet where the participants matched the letters and numbers was printed on the back of the written survey. Design and Procedure The experiment was a quasi-experimental design, to find a relationship between students’ behaviors and actions and parental acceptance toward interracial dating. We are hypothesized, that college students’ attitudes and behaviors towards interracial dating were greatly influenced by their parents’ attitudes on interracial dating. The purpose of our study was to find out what attitudes and behaviors college students had toward interracial dating. Projected behaviors were assessed via the matching exercise. Attitudes were assessed via the written survey. The study began with volunteers reading and signing the informed consent. They were given the matching exercise first. They marked their answers on the answer sheet printed on the back of the written survey. They were given 10 minutes to complete this exercise. Then they were given the written survey. For the survey, they were given 5 minutes to complete. After all surveys were completed the students were debriefed. Basically, they were told we were studying what their attitudes were on interracial dating, specifically on dating among African-American and Caucasian dating, and comparing it to the behavior measured by the matching exercise. Then we explained that we were looking for a positive correlation between their parents’ attitudes influencing their attitudes but especially their behavior. We asked if there were any questions. After any questions were answered, we thanked them and told them when and where they could find the full study and results.
Independent samples t-test was used to see if there was a difference between groups. The independent variable was the parents’ perceived views and the dependent variables were the students’ views and their willingness to engage in interracial relationships. It was hypothesized that students’ dating behavior would reflect their parents’ views rather than their own. In the 2-tailed independent samples t-test, there was no significant difference between those who believed their parents approve and those who reported disapproval in the number of interracial pairs made. Thus, our hypothesis was not supported t df = 0.210, p = 0.834. In our sample of 85 participants, there was 68.2% of parental acceptance, while the mean for students’ behavior was 4.52 (SD = 1.78), calculated by the average couples paired. However, additional significant correlations were found between students’ sex and acceptance, parental acceptance and students’ willingness to partake in interracial relationships, and between student and parental acceptance. It was found that males were more accepting and willing to engage in interracial relationships. The perceived parental views, according to our study, were more accepting of interracial dating than the students’ were willing to interracially date. The correlational statistics were (c2 = 69.753, p<. 001), (Q = 9.143, p = .001), (Q = 4.455, p<. 05), and (c2 = 11.306, p = .001).
DISCUSSION In this study, it was hypothesized that if college students’ agreed with interracial dating but their parents’ did not then they would choose not to interracially date. The main groups compared in this study are students and parental views on interracial dating and student willingness to interracially date. The findings in our study did not support the original hypothesis. Lack of support could be attributed to many factors: social desirability, setting of the study, questionnaire being too vague, low power due to sample size, and students not knowing their parents’ actual views. Social desirability could have played a major role. Responses could have been the bi-product of demand characteristics. Instruments used may have influenced students’ answers. The matching portion of our study may have been too obvious. The students could have answered how they thought we wanted them to answer. Personality captions may have been unintentionally directional. Students may have felt that they should respond in an open-minded manner because being open to new experiences could be a desirable characteristic. The setting of the study could have been a key role. The significant lack of non-Caucasians attending Loyola University New Orleans, could have contributed to the limited data on racial acceptance. The fact that Loyola is a liberal arts college could have contributed to the overwhelming acceptance of non-traditional relationships. The lack of a large sample size, due to small university, causing a low power could have also skewed our results. Another confounding factor could have been our survey questions. They may have been too vague and they question on information that maybe the student could not accurately answer. The student may not really know what their parents’ honest opinions on interracial dating are. Our study attempted to find a correlation between parental acceptances and how they reflect or carry over to students’ behaviors in comparison to students’ acceptance on interracial dating. Implications of this study included a research done by Jones & Smith (2002). They were assessing by way of survey and questionnaire, similar to ours, attitudes of students towards interracial dating. From their sample, they found that almost half of the 620 student reported positive attitudes; but they found that only a quarter from the half had actually dated someone outside of their race. Our study could not report on who had actually engaged in an interracial relationship because we did not include that question in our survey. This could be put into consideration for studies in the future. Jones & Smith also found evidence that parents do have an active involvement in their child ‘s decision-making process. They also hypothesized that if the parents are not accepting of interracial dating the child will probably avoid the situation to further avoid parental consequences. Another study with implications in parental acceptance playing a role is one by Mills (1995). They hypothesized that subjects who reported favorable attitudes on interracial dating would also report more family acceptance. They, however, did not find significant evidence to support this hypothesis. This study could definitely be expanded and maybe involve more subjects or a different setting because I think Mills could really find significant findings on this subject.Fiebert’s study done in 2000 that involved 196 males and 367 females from a college in California. He reported a high willingness in all ethnic groups to be romantically involved as well as an absence of sex difference with regard to both attitude and experience. This like our study could be attributed to the setting the study to place in. Fiebert’s was also at a liberal arts college where there is a possibility of greater willingness to explore new experiences. Future expansions on our study could aim towards getting a larger sample size. There would definitely need to be improvement on the wording of both our survey and matching exercise. The questions would need to be more specific and no room for misinterpretation. The matching exercise would need a revision on the personality caption, to avoid being too obvious in our intentions. The study has real potential for some interesting findings. Future research on this topic is not an imminent, need-to-do-now investigation but it is necessary. With a topic such as interracial dating, one has to wonder why it is still an issue with society. When people will report in studies that they are very accepting but in the real world, there are very few who actually take part, you have to question. Society realizes that it is wrong to judge on color of skin but in their own home and personal lives, society still would rather see same race relations.
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