URC

Undergraduate Research Community

Comparison of American and Austrian Adolescents’ Attitudes toward Diversity

Tanja Rothrauff
University of Missouri

(Research was conducted as an undergraduate student at Penn State Altoona. Funded in part by a 2002 Paolucci Research Grant.)

3606 Wayside Dr.
Columbia, MO 65202

Phone: 573 – 814 - 1339

E-mail: Tanjarothrauff@aol.com

*Lauren Jacobson, Ph.D.
Penn State Altoona

*Karyn McKinney, Ph.D.
Penn State Altoona

Comparison of American and Austrian Adolescents’ Attitudes toward Diversity

Abstract

As the population in the United States becomes more diverse, it is increasingly important to promote positive attitudes toward people from various backgrounds. The emergence of more sophisticated cognitive skills makes adolescence an opportune time for intervening in ways that promote tolerance toward and acceptance of diverse people. Cross-cultural research provides insight into cultural influences on the development of diversity attitudes. The goal of this exploratory study was to examine and compare diversity attitudes of young adolescents in America and Austria. Five diversity domains were investigated, including race, gender, disability, age, and religion. Overall, American adolescents tended to hold more tolerant diversity attitudes than Austrian adolescents. Findings will be discussed regarding cultural influences on the formation of adolescents’ diversity attitudes.

Key Words: adolescents, cross-cultural research, diversity attitudes, tolerance

Literature Review

Adolescence is characterized as a period of multiple changes across several developmental domains. As suggested by Life Span theory, understanding the context of these experiences is vital to understanding developmental change (Lerner, 1986). Evolvement of advanced cognitive skills allows adolescents to think in abstract ways, to view the world from another’s perspective, and to think in relative rather than absolute terms (Keating, 1990). These new cognitive skills also enable adolescents to navigate the complex task of identity formation, considered by many to be the most important developmental task of adolescence (Erikson, 1968).

Moreover, adolescents are also encountering the broadening of their social context, specifically, the heightened importance of, contact with, and influence of their same-age peers (Brown, 1990). As adolescents forge their own identity and start to move away from the family, friendships and peers become increasingly more important (Hartup, 1996). These developmental and contextual factors make adolescents prime candidates for those interested in creating interventions.

The developmental process has been further complicated recently by the increasing diversity of the United States population (Phinney & Alipuria, 1996). This has heightened the importance of developing and implementing intervention programs designed to promote tolerance and acceptance of people from various backgrounds (Lerner, 1998). Minority adolescents may encounter an intensified identity formation experience as they negotiate the process within a predominantly white society (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986).

Some research has suggested that, at least with respect to attitudes toward race and especially African Americans, the beliefs of European Americans have become gradually more accepting, less overtly hostile, and more egalitarian (Dovidio & Gaertner, 1998; McConahay, Hardee, & Batts, 1981). However, there are clear indications that “old-fashioned” forms of racism have been replaced by “more subtle, indirect, and rationalizable” forms of these negative attitudes (Dovidio & Gaertner, 1998, p.119).  Thus, one reason to find ways to enhance diversity attitudes of white youth would be to simplify the challenging task of identity formation for minority adolescents. 

Unfortunately, much of the research to date has focused on unidimensional forms of diversity (Jacobson, 1999) examining such issues as the attitudes of Whites toward blacks (Madsen, Stewart, & Potok, 1985) or non-disabled people toward the disabled (Gillies & Shackley, 1988). Moreover, many intervention programs, especially those based in academic settings, tend to relegate discussions of diversity to particular dates and holidays (Derman-Sparks, 1991). Although such approaches may be appropriate for school-aged children, they do not take advantage of the developmental capacities of adolescence.

Guided by Life Span theory, this project was designed to expand our understanding of factors affecting diversity attitude development. Life Span theory, as framed by developmental contextualism, suggests that it is critical to understand individuals within the socio-cultural and historical contexts in which they are developing (Lerner, 1986; Birkel, Lerner, & Smyer, 1989; Belsky, Lerner, & Spanier, 1984). Research has also shown that examining cultural variables is important for fully understanding the process of development (Bukowski & Sippola, 1998; Schneider, 1998). Thus, by examining diversity attitudes cross-culturally, new insights may be gained regarding the role of culture in the development of diversity attitudes. This knowledge will provide opportunities to strengthen and enhance existing intervention programs, as well as provide a foundation for developing new programs, that promote tolerance and acceptance of diverse people.

In fact, the current study has been designed as an extension of an on-going tolerance promotion and intervention and research study in the United States. TheCelebrate Diversity project was established in 1994 and designed to promote positive attitudes toward diversity among young adolescents. Each year, the attitudes of a new cohort of 7thand 8thgraders are assessed in October and May. The present study served as an extension of this on-going project by comparing Austrian adolescents’ attitudes to those of their American counterparts, where data for Austrian participants were collected only once.

The purpose of this exploratory study, then, was to examine similarities and differences among American and Austrian adolescents’ attitudes toward diversity. Specifically, we were interested in how adolescents feel and think about people from a variety of backgrounds, including those who would be considered a minority because of their race, gender, disability, age, or religious beliefs. Thus, we sought to answer the following three questions:

1) Are there differences between young Austrian and American adolescents’ diversity attitudes?

2) Are there differences between boys’ and girls’ diversity attitudes?

3) Are there meaningful demographic variables (e.g., ethnicity/nationality, parents’ education levels, or family structure) that influence adolescents’ diversity attitudes?

Methods

Sample

Cross-cultural data were derived from two samples, including young American and Austrian adolescents.

American Participants.Young adolescents were recruited from various schools in Central Pennsylvania. Data were collected during theCelebrate Diversityworkshop in September 2002. The American sample consisted of 205 adolescents between 11 and 14 years of age, of which 131 (64%) were female and 74 (36%) were male participants. The students attended sixth, seventh, or eighth grade at a public (N = 83) or parochial school (N = 122) in Central Pennsylvania. The majority of students were European Americans (93%), living in families containing both their biological parents (83%), where the mother worked outside the home (80%).

Austrian Participants.Young adolescents were recruited from two Austrian schools in the province of Burgenland. Data were collected over a three-day period in September 2002 from sixth, seventh, and eighth grade public school students. Of the 158 participants, 94 (59%) were females and 64 (41%) were males between the ages of 11 and 15 years. The vast majority of participants were Austrian nationals (96%), while the remaining participants originated from countries such as Bosnia, Hungary, Rumania, Slovenia, and Turkey. The majority of the students lived with both their biological parents (72%), and came from families where the mother worked outside the home (68%). Table 1 summarizes demographic data on the American and Austrian sample.

Table 1.

Demographic Information on the American and Austrian Participants

 
American
Austrian
 
Count  
%
Count
%
Sex
 
 
 
 
Females
131 
64.00 
94 
59.00
Males
74 
36.00
64
41.00
Total
205
 
158
 
  
   
  
  
   
Age
   
   
 
   
11 
18
8.78
13 
8.23
12 
53
25.85
57
36.08
13
118
57.57
68 
43.03
14 
16  
7.80
19
12.03
15 
0
0
1
0.63
         
Grade
 
 
 
 
6th
19
9.27
13
8.23
7th
68
33.17
68
43.04
8th
118
57.56 
77
48.73
 
 
 
 
 
Race – America only
 
 
 
 

African American

4
1.98
 
 
Asian American 
1
0.50
 
 
European American 
189
93.56
 
 
Hispanic American
1.48
 
 
Other living in America 
2.48 
 
 
No Response 
3
 
 
 
 
 
   
 
 

Nationality – Austria only

   
   
 
  
Austrian National
 
 
149 
95.51
Other 
 
 
7
4.49
No Response
 
 
2
 
 
 
 
 
 
Adolescent lives with
 
 
 
 
Biological parents
168
81.95
113 
72.44
Biological parent/stepparent 
15
7.32
20
12.82
Biological parent/divorced
14
6.83 
14
8.98
Adoptive parents 
1
  0.49
1
0.64
Biological parent/widow(er)
3
1.46
1.28
Biological parent/grandparents
1
0.49 
4
2.56
Other 
3
1.46 
  2 
1.28
No Response 
 
2
 
 
 
 
 
Mother works outside the home
 
 
   
  
Yes
162
79.80
  106 
67.95
No 
41
20.20 
  50
32.05
No Response 
 
2
 
 
 
 
 
 
Father works outside the home
 
 
 
 
Yes
196
97.03
139
  92.67
No
6
2.97
11
7.33
No Response
 
8
 

Measures

In order to assess American and Austrian adolescents’ attitudes toward diversity, students were asked to complete a revised version of theValue Systems Questionnaire(Stimac, 1994). This questionnaire was revised for use with young adolescents and included items regarding basic demographic information and 75 closed-ended items designed to assess attitudes toward five domains of diversity, including race, gender, disabilities, age, and religion. Questionnaires for Austrian participants were translated into German. Moreover, the questionnaire contained an additional 12 items for clarification of specific cultural issues. The purpose of these items was to attempt to address the possibility that the concept of race and ethnicity may have limited meaning to Austrian adolescents.

Responses were measured on a 4-point Likert type scale where 1 = Strongly Disagree and 4 = Strongly Agree. Higher scores indicated higher levels of tolerance. Conversely, lower scores indicated lower levels of tolerance. Sample items included: “All races are equal,” “I believe a woman’s place is in the home,” “I believe it is important to marry someone of the same religion.”

Data Collection

Data for the American participants were collected during theCelebrate Diversityworkshop at a small college in Central Pennsylvania. Informed consent was obtained from parents prior to their adolescents’ attendance at the workshop. Undergraduate research assistants distributed questionnaires within a 30-minute period.

Austrian participants completed theValue Systems Questionnaire(Stimac, 1994) in their classrooms during regular class periods. Participants were reminded that their participation was voluntary and that the decision not to participate in the study would not affect their grades in school. Non-participating students left the classroom during the survey, while participating students completed the questionnaires in approximately 30 minutes. Questionnaires were distributed and the procedures explained by a German-speaking college student, as part of her research internship.

Results

We sought to answer three questions during the course of this study. First, we examined the degree to which differences existed between Austrian and American adolescents’ attitudes toward diversity. In addition, we investigated differences in boys’ and girls’ diversity attitudes in each cohort. Finally, we assessed various demographic variables to try to shed light on the impact of culture and cultural socialization on the development of diversity attitudes. Data were analyzed using Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) procedures to provide insights into the presence of differences both within and between the cultural groups. Additionally, descriptive statistics were employed to organize and summarize data.

Question One: Are there differences between Austrian and American adolescents’ diversity attitudes?

Results indicated that overall, American adolescents held more tolerant diversity attitudes than their Austrian counterparts (Table 2). In terms of race, Austrian adolescents had a mean of 3.08 (SD= 0.51), while American adolescents had a mean of 3.69 (SD= 0.36), a difference that was found to be significant [F(df = 1, 359) = 187.53,p<.01]. Looking at the gender domain, Austrian adolescents had a mean of 3.12 (SD= 0.39), while Americans had a mean of 3.47 (SD= 0.40), which was found to be a significant difference [F(df = 1, 359) = 71.76,p<.01].  As for the disability domain, Austrian adolescents had a mean of 3.05 (SD= 0.58), and American adolescents had a mean of 3.58 (SD= 0.43), which was also found to be a significant difference [F(df = 1, 359) = 99.14,p<.01]. However, the degree of tolerance was reversed regarding the age domain where results indicated that Austrian adolescents held more tolerant attitudes. Here, Austrian students had a mean of 3.14 (SD= 0.38), while American students had a mean of 3.03 (SD = 0.42), which was found to be a significant difference [F(df = 1, 359) = 6.50,p <.05]. Finally, with respect to the religion domain, Austrians had a mean of 2.80 (SD= 0.56), while Americans had a mean of 3.12 (SD= 0.53), which again was found to be a significant difference [F(df = 1, 359) = 29.42,p <.01], indicating increased tolerance by American adolescents.

Table 2.

Mean Differences between American and Austrian Adolescents’ Diversity Attitudes

Domain
American Mean 
Austrian Mean
     
Race
3.69
3.08
Standard Deviation
(0.36) 
(0.51)
     
Gender
3.47
3.12
Standard Deviation
(0.40)
(0.39)
     
Disability 
3.58
3.05
Standard Deviation
(0.43) 
(0.58)
     
Age
3.03 
3.14
Standard Deviation
(0.42) 
(0.38)
     
Religion
3.12
2.80
Standard Deviation
(0.53) 
(0.56)

Question Two: Are there differences between boys’ and girls’ diversity attitudes?

When comparing attitudes between American and Austrian girls and boys, findings showed that in all domains, with the exception of the age domain, American girls were significantly more tolerant than were American boys and both Austrian boys and girls (Table 3). In addition, results indicated that Austrian boys were consistently less tolerant than either Austrian girls and American boys or girls. Specifically, in terms of race attitudes, American girls had a race mean of 3.75 (SD= 0.28), while American boys had a mean of 3.58 (SD = 0.45), Austrian girls had a mean of 3.14 (SD = 0.48) and Austrian boys had a mean of 2.98 (SD= 0.54), which was found to be a significant difference [F(df = 2, 359) = 6.73,p<.01].  With respect to gender attitudes, American girls had a mean of 3.58 (SD= 0.33), while American boys had a mean of 3.28 (SD= 0.44); Austrian girls had a mean of 3.26 (SD = 0.34) and Austrian boys had a mean of 2.90 (SD= 0.36), which was also found to be a significant difference [F(df = 2, 359) = 34.90,p<.01]. No significant differences were found between American boys and Austrian girls. With respect to disability attitudes, American girls had a mean of 3.65 (SD= 0.37), American boys had a mean of 3.44 (SD= 0.49), while Austrian girls had a mean of 3.09 (SD= 0.60) and Austrian boys had a mean of 2.99 (SD= 0.55), a difference that was found to be significant [F (df = 2, 358) = 5.09,p<.01]. However, no significant difference was found between Austrian girls and boys. Regarding religion attitudes, American girls had a religion mean of 3.22 (SD= 0.45) and American boys had a religion mean of 2.93 (SD= 0.60), while Austrian girls had a religion mean of 2.91 (SD= 0.55) and Austrian boys had a religion mean of 2.65 (SD= 0.54), which was found to be a significant difference [F(df = 2, 357) = 11.80,p<.01]. With respect to age attitudes, American girls had an age mean of 3.04 (SD= 0.42), American boys had an age mean of 3.01 (SD= 0.43), while Austrian girls had an age mean of 3.12 (SD= 0.36) and Austrian boys had an age mean of 3.17 (SD = 0.41), which was not found to be a significant difference [F(df = 2, 358) = 0.51,p>.05].

Table 3.

Mean Differences between Boys’ and Girls’ Diversity Attitudes

 
American Mean
Austrian Mean
Domain
Girls 
Boys
Girls
Boys
 
 
 
 
 
Race 
3.75
3.58
3.14
2.98
Standard Deviation
(0.28) 
(0.45)
(0.48)
(0.54)
 
 
 
 
 
Gender
3.58 
3.28
3.26
2.90
Standard Deviation
(0.33)
(0.44) 
(0.34) 
(0.36)
 
 
 
 
 
Disability
3.65
3.44 
3.09
2.99
Standard Deviation
(0.37) 
(0.49)
(0.60) 
(0.55)
 
 
 
 
 
Age 
3.04
3.01
3.12
3.17
Standard Deviation
(0.42) 
(0.43) 
(0.36)
(0.41)
 
 
 
 
 
Religion
3.22
2.93 
2.91
2.65
Standard Deviation
(0.45)
(0.60)
(0.55)
(0.54)

Question Three: Are there meaningful demographic variables that influence adolescents’ diversity attitudes?

Demographic variables included age, school grade, family structure, number of siblings, birth order, and mothers’ and fathers’ level of education. Only one demographic variable, family structure indicated some differences in diversity attitudes between American and Austrian adolescents. Family structure was divided into two basic groups to include traditional and non-traditional families. Traditional families were defined as households where adolescents lived with both their biological parents. Non-traditional families were defined as household where adolescents either lived with a biological parent and a stepparent, a divorced biological parent, a widowed biological parent, a biological parent and grandparent(s), or adoptive parents. Differences in diversity attitudes based on family structure were found with respect to race and religion attitudes (Table 4). 

Table 4.

Mean Differences in Diversity Attitudes between American and Austrian Adolescents from Traditional and Non-Traditional Families

 
 American Adolescents
Austrian Adolescents
Domain
Trad.
Non-Trad. 
Trad. 
Non-Trad.
 
 
 
 
 
Race
3.68
3.76
3.14
2.93
Standard Deviation 
(0.36)
(0.34)
(0.45) 
(0.62)
 
 
 
 
 
Gender
3.47
3.47
3.16
3.03
Standard Deviation 
(0.40)
(0.38)
(0.39)
(0.38)
 
 
 
 
 
Disability 
3.58
3.57
3.07
2.97
Standard Deviation 
(0.40) 
  (0.53)
(0.59)
(0.57)
 
 
 
 
 
Age
3.02
3.05
3.16
3.11
Standard Deviation 
(0.39)
(0.55)
(0.41) 
(0.26)
 
 
 
 
 
Religion
3.08
3.26
2.87
2.68
Standard Deviation
(0.51)
(0.60)
(0.53)
(0.62)

Note.Trad. = Traditional Families; Non-Trad. = Non-Traditional Families

In terms of race attitudes, American adolescents from non-traditional families tended to be more tolerant than were American adolescents from traditional families, or Austrian adolescents from non-traditional families. Specifically, American adolescents from non-traditional families had a race mean of 3.76 (SD= 0.3), and American adolescents from traditional families had a mean of 3.68 (SD= 0.36), while Austrian adolescents from traditional families had a mean of 3.14 (SD= 0.45), and Austrian adolescents from non-traditional families had a mean of 2.93 (SD= 0.62), a difference which was found to be significant [F(df = 2, 357) = 4.62,p<.05]. However, no significant differences were found between American adolescents from non-traditional families and Austrian adolescents from traditional families.

With respect to religion attitudes, American adolescents from non-traditional families were again more tolerant than were American adolescents from traditional families, or Austrian adolescents from non-traditional families. American adolescents from non-traditional families had a religion mean of 3.26 (SD= 0.60), American adolescents from traditional families had a mean of 3.08 (SD= 0.51), Austrian adolescents from non-traditional families had a mean of 2.68 (SD= 0.62), and Austrian adolescents from traditional families had a mean of 2.87 (SD= 0.53), which was found to be a significant difference [F(df = 2, 355) = 3.59,p<.05]. No significant differences were found between American adolescents from non-traditional families and Austrian adolescents from traditional families. In addition, no significant differences were found between Austrian adolescents from traditional and non-traditional families.

Summary

Overall, results indicated that there were significant differences in American and Austrian adolescents’ attitudes toward diversity in the majority of domains. American adolescents tended to be more tolerant than were Austrian adolescents. Findings also indicated that American girls were significantly more tolerant than were American boys as well as Austrian girls and boys. Finally, we assessed various demographic variables to gain a better understanding of the impact of culture and cultural socialization on the development of diversity attitudes. Only one demographic factor, family structure, indicated differences in race and religion attitudes between American and Austrian adolescents.

Discussion

This exploratory cross-cultural study was designed to assess the diversity attitudes of young Austrian and American adolescents. Areas of tolerance attitudes investigated were race, gender, disability, age, and religion. The project was designed as an initial step toward understanding a broader range of factors affecting the formation of young adolescents’ attitudes toward those different from themselves. Of particular interest in this project was the examination of the role of culture in attitude formation.

Differences between Austrian and American adolescents’ diversity attitudes

In the first question, we were interested in comparing American and Austrian adolescents’ diversity attitudes. Findings suggested that American adolescents held more tolerant diversity attitudes in the race, gender, disability, and religion domains than did Austrian adolescents. Differences in tolerance could be attributed, in part, to two factors. First, American adolescents partook in a diversity enhancement workshop, which might have influenced participants’ selection of responses considered most appropriate to the context and intent of the workshop. Second, American adolescents may be accustomed to a greater degree of diversity in their school, as well as their community.

This assumption would be supported by the Contact Hypothesis (Allport, 1954) regarding racial tolerance, which suggests that increased contact with minority groups may be positively associated with attitudes that are more tolerant toward those minorities. However, the notion that mere contact with other groups inevitably increases tolerance has been challenged by findings of more recent research. For example, Hewstone and Brown (1986) pointed out that improved relations between groups are contingent upon a variety of circumstances, such as groups having equal status, and that increased contact is not always synonymous with increased tolerance.

Even though Austrian adolescents’ tended to score lower on the majority of diversity domains, they did display more tolerant attitudes in the age domain relative to their American counterparts. Differences in the degree of tolerance toward age could be explained by the context of the structural changes that have occurred in the American and Austrian family over the past few decades. The extended family in America, consisting of parents, their children, grandparents or other relatives, has been replaced by nuclear family households, consisting of only parents and their children (Montepare & Zebrowitz, 2002), resulting in decreased contact between grandparents and grandchildren.

Although the evolution of the extended family to the nuclear family in Austria is similar to that in America (Hoerl, 1996), many adult children in Austria continue to live in close proximity of their elderly parents or continue to co-reside with their aging parents (Oesterreichisches Statistisches Zentralamt, 1989). Thus, it may be inferred that increased intergenerational contact may promote adolescents’ attitudes toward old age. However, Schwartz and Simmons (2001) suggested that positive attitudes toward the elderly in the United States were associated with quality inter-generational interactions, instead of mere amount of time spent together. In addition, positive parental attitudes toward aging family members have been linked to increased tolerant attitudes in children (Gittler, 1949). Future studies should address the type, such as quality or quantity, of Austrian intergenerational interactions and parents’ attitudes toward elderly, to gain a better understanding of the factors that influence tolerant age attitudes.

Differences between boys’ and girls’ diversity attitudes

In the second question, we wanted to examine differences in diversity attitudes between boys and girls. Results indicated that American girls tended to be more tolerant in the race, gender, disability, and religion domain compared to American boys as well as Austrian boys and girls. Conversely, Austrian boys consistently tended to be less tolerant in a variety of diversity domains relative to other adolescents. These findings are not unique in the sense that differences in attitudes and behavior between males and females are well documented in the literature. For example, studies have suggested that in general, girls tend to be more caring and empathic (Turner & Gervai, 1995), while boys tend to be more active, rational (Constantinople, 1973), and more aggressive in many cultures (Whiting & Edwards, 1988).

Similarly, Hoover and Fishbein (1999) confirmed gender differences in the development of prejudice and gender role stereotyping. The authors examined responses from 433 white male and female students attending junior and senior high school and college. Findings showed that girls were more likely to display tolerant attitudes toward a variety of diversity issues than were boys, regardless of age or grade. Subsequently, findings were surprising in the sense that Austrian girls were consistently less tolerant than were American boys. 

In contrast to the other domains of diversity, the age domain did not engender the same differences in tolerance relative to the race, gender, disability, and religion domain. As mentioned earlier, boys and girls across cultures showed no significant differences in attitudes in the age domain. This may largely be a reflection of the high value placed on youth and youthfulness in industrialized cultures (Gottlieb, 2001). Another explanation could be drawn from the fact that despite efforts to promote tolerance, negative stereotypes about and contempt for older adults continue to exist (Maxwell & Maxwell, 1980). As a result, society’s negative attitudes toward older adults may shape adolescents’ thoughts and feelings about the elderly.

Demographic variables that influence adolescents’ diversity attitudes

Finally, analyses were conducted to explore the degree to which demographic variables other than gender were identified in adolescents’ attitudes formation. Variables included age, grade, family structure, number of siblings, birth order, and mothers’ and fathers’ level of education. Family structure was the only demographic variable to indicate significant differences in race and religion attitudes between American and Austrian adolescents. American adolescents from non-traditional families tended to be more tolerant in the race domain than were American adolescents from traditional families as well as Austrian adolescents from non-traditional families. Similar results were found in the religion domain where American adolescents from non-traditional families were more likely to express tolerant attitudes toward religion than were American adolescents from traditional families and Austrian adolescents from non-traditional families. Interestingly, no differences in diversity attitudes were found between Austrian adolescents from traditional and non-traditional families.

It can be speculated that higher tolerant racial and religious attitudes held by American adolescents from non-traditional families may be linked to the diverse nature of “blended” or other family structures. For example, many families comprised of two biological or adoptive parents may uphold stricter values regarding divorce or remarriage relative to other families. In addition, religious affiliation may also discourage religious diversity. Thus, it could be suggested that adolescents from traditional families may show less tolerant attitudes toward a variety of diversity domains. However, the exact nature of the relationship between family structure and diversity attitudes remains unclear.

Limitations

Results need to be interpreted in light of several methodological limitations. Adolescents in the American sample were not representative of the local population from which they were recruited. The teachers in their various public and parochial schools recommended students for participation in the Celebrate Diversity workshop.  Thus, results may not accurately reflect the characteristics of the American sample and may exacerbate the degree of differences between American and Austrian adolescents. Moreover, responses made by the American participants may have been influenced by their knowledge of the programs’ mission to promote and embrace diversity. In addition, the possibility exists that American adolescents simply selected the answers considered most preferable by the organizers of the program, regardless of their personal values. In contrast, the Austrian sample was not exposed to any type of treatment prior to the data collection and students were unaware of the existence of theCelebrate Diversityworkshop. In light of these limitations, future research should also include adolescents who are not participants of a diversity enhancement program in order to obtain data from samples whose primary differences are a function of cultural variation.

Moreover, because the measurement instrument was translated from English into German, the possibility exists that certain items may have been culture specific, which may have resulted in findings that were culturally biased. Thus, the meaning of some questions may have been changed or lost in the translation process. In addition, American participants completed their questionnaires in a large auditorium style setting, allowing for the possibility that their peers may have influenced their responses.

Implications

Future cross-cultural studies should include adolescents from a more diverse group of students in America, as well as in Austria. It is imperative that subsequent studies include students who are not part of a program to increase tolerance in order to get a better picture of adolescents’ attitudes toward a variety of people from diverse backgrounds. Thus, future cross-cultural studies may provide more accurate data than information derived from this study. It is evident that future research should attempt to build on the information provided in this research.

Differences in attitudes toward various diversity issues within as well as across the American and Austrian sample indicated the need for tolerance intervention programs. Even though research suggested that certain attitudes, such as racial awareness (Renninger & Williams, 1966), are established during the preschool years, cognitive changes render the adolescent period as the optimal time for implementing intervention programs designed to enhance the level of tolerance (Keating, 1990).

Building on the Contact Hypothesis (Allport, 1954), intervention programs should provide opportunities for adolescents to interact and socialize with people from diverse backgrounds not only within but also outside of school settings to promote tolerance. This is important because Manetti and her colleagues (2001) observed that nine- to eleven-year-old Italian children only showed tolerance toward mentally retarded co-students in a hypothetical setting but not in an integrated classroom atmosphere. Thus, cognitive changes during early adolescence may provide an opportunity to combine the development of hypothetical reasoning with interaction of diverse people to increase tolerant attitudes. Much work remains to be done for researchers, professionals, teachers, and parents in developing strategies to incorporate adolescents’ biological, psychological, and cognitive advances in the development of positive attitudes toward a myriad of diversity domains.

Conclusion

Results of this exploratory study indicated significant differences in diversity attitudes between young American and Austrian adolescents, as well as between boys and girls. As the population is getting more diverse in the United States, adolescents will be exposed to people from a variety of diverse backgrounds. For example, schools are integrating students with various disabilities into regular classrooms across the country and increased life expectancy will provide opportunities for increased inter-generational interactions. Thus, it is imperative that efforts at enhancing diversity attitudes be targeted not only at increasing racial tolerance, but also at a much broader diversity context including disability, gender, age and religious beliefs.

References

Allport, G. W. (1954).The nature of prejudice. Cambridge, MA: Addison Wesley.

Belsky, J., Lerner, R. M., & Spanier, G. B. (1984).The child in the family. Topics in developmental psychology. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Birkel, R. C., Lerner, R. M., & Smyer, M. A. (1989). Applied developmental psychology as an implementation of a life-span view of human development.Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology,10(4) 425-445.

Brown, B. B. (1990). Peer groups and peer cultures. In S. S. Feldman & G. R. Elliott (Eds.),At the threshold: The developing adolescent(pp. 171-196). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press

Bukowski, W. M., & Sippola, L. K. (1998). Diversity and the social mind: Goals, constructs, culture and development.Developmental Psychology, 34, 742-746.

Constantinople, A. (1973). Masculinity-femininity: An exception to a famous dictum?Psychological Bulletin, 80, 389-407.

Derman-Sparks, L. (1991).Anti-bias curriculum: Tools for empowering young children. Washington, D.C.: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Dovidio, J. F., & Gaertner, S. L. (1998). On the nature of contemporary prejudice: The causes, consequences, and challenges of aversive racism. In J. Eberhardt & S. T. Fiske (Eds.),Confronting racism: The problem and the response. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Erikson, E. H. (1968).Identity: Youth and Crisis.New York: Norton

Fordham, S., & Ogbu, J. U. (1986). Black students’ school success: Coping with the ‘burden of acting white.’Urban Review, 18,17-206.

Gillies, P., & Shackley, T. (1988). Adolescents’ views of their physically handicapped peers: A comparative study.Educational Research, 30(2), 104-109.

Gittler, J. B. (1949). Man and his prejudice.Scientific Monthly, 69, 43-47.

Gottlieb, S. (2001). Plastic surgery rockets as baby boomers search for youth and beauty. British Medical Journal, 322, 574.

Hartup, W. W. (1996). The company they keep: Friendships and their developmental significance.Child Development, 67, 1-13.

Hewstone, M., & Brown, R. (1986). Contact is not enough: An intergroup perspective on the “contact hypothesis.” In M. Hewstone & R. Brown (Eds.), Contact and conflict in intergroup encounters (pp. 1-44). Oxford: Blackwell.

Hoerl, J. (1996). Family sociology in Austria: Trend in the 1980s.Marriage and Family Review, 23, 433-456.

Hoover, R., & Fishbein, H. D. (1999). The development of prejudice and sex role stereotyping in white adolescents and white young adults.Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 20(3), 431-448.

Jacobson, L. P. (1999).Celebrate Diversity! An assessment of three years of an attitude enhancement program for young adolescents. Poster presented at the Biennial Meeting for the Society for Research on Child Development, Albuquerque, NM, April 15-18, 1999.

Keating, D. P. (1990). Adolescent thinking. In S. S. Feldman, & G. R. Elliott (Eds.),At the threshold:The developing adolescent,(pp. 54-89). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Lerner, R. M. (1986).Concepts and theories of human development. New York: Random House.

Lerner, R. M. (1998). Diversity. In R. E. Muuss & H. D. Porton (Eds.),Adolescent behavior and society: A book of readings, (pp. 330-333). New York: McGraw Hill.

Madsen, J. M., Stewart, J. B., & Potok, A. A. (1985). Black and white students’ perceptions of ‘differing others.’Journal of Educational Research, 72(2), 69-75.

Manetti, M., Schneider, B. H., & Siperstein, G. (2001). Social acceptance of children with mental retardation: Testing the contact hypothesis with an Italian sample.International Journal of Behavioral Development, 25(3), 279-286.

Maxwell, E., & Maxwell, R. (1980). Contempt for the Elderly: A cross-cultural analysis.Current Anthropology, 24, 569-570.

McConahay, J. B., Hardee, B. B., & Batts, V. (1981). Has racism declined in America? It depends on who is asking and what is asked.Journal of Conflict Resolution, 25(4), 563-579.

Montepare, J. M., & Zebrowitz, L. A. (2002). A social-developmental view of ageism. In Ageism: Stereoptyping and prejudice against older persons. Nelson, T. D. (Ed). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Österreichisches Statistisches Zentralamt (1989).Ältere Menschen. Ergebnisse des Mai/Juni Zensus 1987. Vienna: Oesterreichisches Statistisches Zentralamt.

Phinney, J. S., & Alipuria, L. L. (1996). At the interface of cultures: Multiethnic/multiracial high school and college students.The Journal of Social Psychology, 136(2), 139-158.

Renninger, C. A., & Williams, J. E. (1966). Black-white color connotations and racial awareness in preschool children.Perceptual and Motor Skills, 22(3), 771-785.

Schneider, B. H. (1998). Cross-cultural comparison as doorkeeper in research on the social and emotional adjustment of children and adolescents.Developmental Psychology, 34,793-797.

Schwartz, L. K., & Simmons, J. P. (2001). Contact quality and attitudes toward the elderly.Educational Gerontology, 27(2), 127-137.

Stimac, M. (1994). Value-system instrument.The 1994 annual: Developing human resources(pp. 133-151). San Diego, CA: Pfeiffer & Company.

Turner, P. J., & Gervai, J. (1995). A multidimensional study of gender typing in preschool children and their parents: Personality, attitudes, preferences, behavior, and cultural differences.Developmental Psychology, 31(5), 759-772.

Whiting, B., & Edwards, C. P. (1988). A cross-cultural analysis of sex differences in the behavior of children aged 3 through 11. In G. Handel (Ed),Childhood socialization(pp.281-297). New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

 


URC RESOURCES:

©2002-2016 All rights reserved by the Undergraduate Research Community.

Research Journal: Vol. 1 Vol. 2 Vol. 3 Vol. 4 Vol. 5 Vol. 6 Vol. 7 Vol. 8 Vol. 9 Vol. 10 Vol. 11 Vol. 12 Vol. 13 Vol. 14 Vol. 15
High School Edition

Call for Papers ¦ URC Home ¦ Kappa Omicron Nu

KONbutton K O N KONbutton