The Changing Landscape: Diverse Friendships and the Effects of Contextual Diversity on Youth Outcomes

Looking at the impact of an increasingly diverse UK on early life outcomes.

In partnership with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and researchers from the University of Bristol, we are looking at the impact of an increasingly diverse UK on early life outcomes, including friendships, education and health outcomes.

Approximately 19% of the population identify as a racial/ethnic minority, an increase from 9% in 2001 and 6% in 1991. School statistics also demonstrate that 27% of pupils in state-funded secondary schools are from minority ethnic groups. This growing diversity may also be accompanied by increasing discrimination. 25% of the UK population believe that the level of prejudice and discrimination they experience has gone up since 2000.

It’s likely that our social spaces will continue to become even more ethnically diverse, and so it’s critical to understand how this changing landscape is impacting on early life outcomes, including friendships, education and health outcomes. A better understanding of diversity effects over time and in different spaces is important for improving education and health outcomes for all members of society.

There are also many limitations with the existing research literature especially as previous studies have been largely conducted in North America, have tended not to look at changes over time, and have mainly examined diversity as physical co-presence alone, rather than consider the impact of meaningful interactions, i.e., diverse friendships.

University of Bristol

Researchers from the University of Bristol will conduct a timely secondary data analysis of multiple data sources (involving approximately 7,500 individuals), including the Census, National Pupil Database, and the Millennium Cohort Study to further understand how increasing ethnic diversity is associated with education and health outcomes for young people in the UK from different ethnic backgrounds.

There are three main research questions:

  1. What are the best predictors of the ethnic diversity of young people’s friendships?

  2. What are the consequences of ethnic diversity on educational attitudes and aspirations?

  3. What are the consequences of ethnic diversity on physical and mental health?

The study is novel in several ways: 1) it examines the impact of ethnic diversity across multiple levels of influence – interpersonal, school, and neighbourhood level; 2) it extends the measurement of interpersonal diversity to include young people’s friendships, rather than measuring it by physical co-presence alone; 3) it examines intergenerational effects by considering the impact of parental attitudes on friendship patterns; 4) it considers the impact of ethnic diversity across those from different ethnic backgrounds; 5) it integrates a variety of longitudinal data sources to assess changes over time.

Our approach

NCB’s role within the Changing Landscape study is to co-design the project and the research questions to ensure its relevance for young people and optimise its impact for practice and policy influencing.

We are also supporting two of our Young Research Advisors (YRAs) to contribute to the project’s Stakeholder Advisory Group, alongside one parent who is a member of our Families Research Advisory Group (FRAG). The advisory group will meet at four time points throughout the duration of the project and will be involved in its design, the dissemination of findings via user friendly research summaries, and the planning of impact activities. There will also be consultation with YRA and FRAG members via three standalone participation sessions, and members will also provide input into a policy roundtable event. The YRAs and FRAG have an essential role in this study by ensuring the study findings are relevant and interesting for young people and their families.

Find out more about the project via the study website and Twitter feed.