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WALKER, H. N. (2001). Effects of Race, Sex, and Self-esteem on College Students` Views on Interracial Dating. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 4. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved December 6, 2023 .

Effects of Race, Sex, and Self-esteem on College Students` Views on Interracial Dating

Sponsored by: MUKUL BHALLA (bhalla@loyno.edu)
This study examined the effects of race, sex, and self-esteem on college students’ views of interracial dating. There were 52 participants in this study. There were 39 females, 13 males, 12 were Black, 34 were White, 3 were Hispanic, and 3 were of other races. Four hypotheses were made: males are more accepting of interracial dating, Black females would be the least accepting of interracial dating, dating between non-White groups would be more acceptable, and individuals who report high levels of self-esteem would be more accepting of interracial dating. We did not find significance for the original four hypotheses, but a significant racial difference between Whites and Black and how they interpreted society’s views on interracial dating was found. The findings in this study are not consistent with previous research and this is probably due to certain limitations of this study.

Interracial Dating has always been a controversial issue. If American society prides itself on being a melting pot, full of many different nationalities, races, and ethnicities, then why is it so hard for people to accept interracial dating? Black-White relationships have always been least accepted and still cause much controversy to this day, but they are steadily on the rise. According the Census Bureau, the number of Black-White relationships has quadrupled between the years of 1960-1980. (Croal, 2000) Past research has tried to find reasons why people enter these relationships, knowing that great hardships will be faced. Many theories try to explain a trade off that exists in interracial relationships. Murstein, Merighi, and Mallory (1989) studied physical attractiveness and the exchange theory in interracial dating. Twenty interracial couples participated in this study. The personal attractiveness of each individual was evaluated by using outside judges, the individual’s self report, and the perception of their partner. The researchers believed that the Black member in these relationships would be more physically attractive than their white counterpart. They believed that, “whites might require that Blacks be more attractive than themselves as a means for compensating for Blacks’ lesser valued skin color.” (Murstein, Merighi, and Mallory 1989) They based their findings on earlier research that indicated that in White-Black relationships, an exchange takes place between the partners. Because of their low status in society, Blacks could offer other attributes, such as high socioeconomic status, to compensate for their lack of societal status. The researchers found that Black men were more attractive than their White female partners, but Black women were not more attractive than their White male partners. One of the problems with this study was their sample size was too small. Out of twenty couples, only seven consisted of White males with Black females. Murstein, Merighi, and Mallory cite other studies which state that Black women are less likely to date interracially. Because of the small number of Black women, White men who are interested in dating interracially have a limited selection of Black women to choose from. While some researchers believe that there is a trade off among interracial partners, other research explains interracial dating as a way for Black men to gain racial status. The researchers designed this study to test the theory of hypogamy. This concept states that because Black men are of a lower racial caste, they will trade certain attributes, such as money and physical attractiveness, in order to pursue a relationship with a White woman. This concept also states that interracial relationships perpetuate the inferior status of Blacks in society. Yancey and Yancey (1997) looked at the differences in the personal advertisements that were placed in Interrace, a magazine for individuals in interracial relationships. In studying advertisements, the researchers expected to find that Whites would be more likely to request certain traits of potential partners, while Blacks would be more likely to offer potential partners their positive traits, in an attempt to compensate for their racial status. The results of the study showed that the effects of hypogamy were less significant than the effects of the traditional marital exchange theory. This theory states how gender affects an individual’s preference when selecting a mate. When seeking a partner, men seek women who are physically attractive and who are younger then themselves. Women tend to look for men who can provide financial security, older, and they will also seek personality traits that they find desirable. The results from Yancey and Yancey’s study support the traditional marital exchange theory rather than the theory of hypogamy. In this study gender and age played a more significant role than race. There is a vast amount of research on Black men and their views of interracial dating, but very little research has been done on Black women. Harpalani (1998) studied Black women’s attitudes toward interracial dating. She believed that Black women may feel that do not have the opportunity to date other races because their physical traits are not up to White standards of beauty, therefore making them unattractive to other races. The second hypothesis is that because of a long history of the sexual exploitation of Black women by White men, Black women have developed a “White Aversion”. This theory states that Black women would be less attractive to White men, and dating other non-White racial groups would be looked upon as more favorably. By surveying and interviewing a small number of Black women on a college campus, Harpalani found that Black women felt that White men had been attracted to them, but were not interested in pursuing an interracial relationship. It was also discovered that Black women looked more favorably on Blacks dating other non-Whites. According the Harpalani, “Black women’s misgivings about interracial relationship appear to be a reaction against this societal bias than a manifestation of prejudice.” Previous research attempt to explain the reasoning behind interracial dating in terms of certain societal factors, but some research explains this phenomenon using principles of psychoanalytic psychology.. Some have approached interracial dating with a psychoanalytic approach. Rorty as cited in Tenzar (1990) said that, “wherever there is a strong social prohibition on the expression of a drive or an activity, we may presume that there is a strong tendency, perhaps with the force of an instinctual drive, to perform that activity.”(Tenzar, 1990) For example, psychoanalysts explain the attraction between a Black man and a White in terms of the Oedipus complex. During this critical stage, failure of identify with a mother can cause a young girl to become fixated, causing her not to bond properly with her father. In order to fill this void, a woman will seek out partners who are different than her father. To a White woman, a Black man cannot be seen as a substitute father figure; therefore she becomes attracted to him. Because of it controversial nature, the Black-White relationship has been the subject of many research studies. Despite the amounts of research that has been done, some theories have been overlooked. Such studies tend on focus on the role of certain societal issues play a role in influencing people’s view of interracial dating, such as racial inequality. There has not been much research, apart from that of race, gender and age, about what other internal factors could affect attitudes towards interracial dating, e.g. personal preferences or self-esteem. The current study focused on the attitudes that college students have towards interracial dating. The questions we raised in this study were related to the effects of race, gender, and self-esteem on attitudes of interracial dating. We hypothesized that men would be accepting of interracial dating than women, black women would be the least accepting of interracial dating, dating between non-White groups would be more accepted, and individuals who report high levels of self-esteem would be more accepting of interracial relationships. The rationale for the first three hypotheses lay in the findings of previous research. Most of the findings shows that men are more accepting, Black women are the least accepting, and that dating between non-White groups is more acceptable. Most research about self-esteem states that individuals who report high levels of self-esteem tend to have more positive attitudes, so we predicted that high levels of self-esteem would yield more accepting attitudes of interracial dating.

Participants Participants were 52 students from Loyola University and 12 students from Xavier University. The participants ranged in age from 18-25. The sample was racially diverse, including who were 34 White students, 12 Black students and 3 Hispanic students and 3 students of other races. Out of the 52 participants, 13 were male and 39 were female. Convenience sampling was used to recruit all participants. Participants from Loyola University were recruited using the psychology departments subject pool. These participants received course credit for their participation. Xavier University students were recruited from introductory psychology classes. These students were given extra credit from their instructor for their participation. Materials The testing packet used was compiled of two informed consent forms, a demographic questionnaire, the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, and an interracial dating scale. The informed consent forms provided the participants with information about the study and contact information. The participants kept one form and the researchers collected the other. The demographic questionnaire consisted of ten items, which asked questions related to the participants’ race, sex, age, etc. (see appendix). The Rosenberg Self Esteem consisted of ten items. Participants responded to the questions by circling strongly agree, agree, disagree, and strongly disagree. The responses were rated on a four-point scale. Questions related to how the participants felt about themselves, their qualities and how they compare to others (see appendix). The researchers created the interracial dating scale. The first part consisted of four items. Participants responded to dating scenarios according to their views and society’s views on a scale that ranged form strongly agree to strongly disagree. The scenarios that were presented were about couples who are facing conflicts regarding their racial differences. (see appendix). The second part of the interracial dating scale consisted of photographs of 12 couples. Participants were asked to rank the couples in order of their acceptance and society’s acceptance. Before the actual data collection began, the researchers used a scale to select the pictures that would be used in interracial dating scale. The pictures that were used were taken from the senior section Loyola University yearbook from 1997. The researchers eliminated pictures of students who appeared to be over the age of twenty-two and if students were not dressed in graduation attire. Out of the remaining pictures, anchor pictures were selected. These individuals displayed characteristics that were typical of Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians. A male and female anchor was chosen for each race. Participants were asked to examine the anchor pictures and the rest of the pictures, then determine what race the students in the photographs were.

Design and Procedure The design of this study was 4 x 2 x 12 mixed group quasi-experimental, with 4 levels of race of participants (Black, White, Hispanic, and other), 2 levels of gender of participants (male and female) as the between factors. The within factor was the 12 possible couple combinations that are presented in the interracial dating scale. The independent variables examined were the race and the gender of the participants and the couple combinations used in the interracial dating scale. The dependent variables were the acceptance of the individual participants and the acceptance level of society as perceived by the participants. There were several steps taken to prevent the influence of extraneous variables. Before the participants completed the surveys, a grid scale was constructed to select the pictures that would be used in survey. This measure was taken to ensure that the pictures were comparable. Since the pictures were of graduating seniors, most of the individuals appear in the pictures with graduation gowns on. Those who were not wearing this gown eliminated, so that the pictures would be uniform. Also student who appeared to be over the age of twenty-two were eliminated. The order of the pictures was standard. The males were placed on the left side and the females were placed on the right. The participants arrived at classroom and they were seated. They were given two informed consent forms. After the participants read this information, one form was collected. Next the demographic questionnaire was administered. This took approximately five minutes. The Rosenberg Self-Esteem scale was administered and took approximately ten minutes. After this was completed, the participants filled out the interracial dating survey. Part one of the survey, which consisted of the scenarios took approximately ten minutes and part two, which consisted of the picture ranking, took approximately seven minutes. After all of the surveys were completed and collected, the participants were debriefed. They were told they hypotheses of the study and their questions on the subject manner were answered. After the debriefing, subjects were thanked and dismissed.

Results As stated before, there were 13 males and 39 females with a mean age 19.1 (SD=2.8) for a total of 52 participants. Our first hypothesis stated was that males are more accepting than females. The mean level of acceptance among males 11.54 (SD=.78) while the mean level of acceptance for females was 11.74 (SD=1.63) A one way, between-subjects ANOVA was computed with sex as the independent variable and the participants’ levels of acceptance as the dependent variable. Sex was not found to be statistically significant, F(1,42) =.13, p > .05. The second hypothesis stated that Black females were the least accepting group of interracial dating. The mean level of acceptance among Black females was 11.0 (SD=1.5) The mean level for acceptance in Black males was 11.00 (SD = .00) while the mean level of acceptance for white females was 12.20 (SD = 1.50) and for white males it was 11.80 (SD =. 63). A two-way ANOVA was computed to examine the significance between the sex and race interaction. It was found that the interaction was not significant, F(1, 42) = .13, p > .05. Our third hypothesis stated that dating among non-White groups was more acceptable. This was found to be reversed in this study. Because of a lack of participants of other races, only the responses from our Black and White participants were analyzed. The mean for acceptance for a White and non-White paring was 7.0 (SD=. 79) while the mean for the acceptance for a non-White and non-White paring was 4.8 (SD=1.1). A two-way, within-subjects ANOVA was computed, and even though it did not support our hypothesis, this difference was found to be significant, F( 1, 45) = 134.36, p < .05. The first scenario in the interracial dating scale consisted of a White individual who is dating a non-White individual. The mean level of acceptance for this scenario was 3.66 (SD=.48) Scenarios 3 and 4 consisted of a non-White individual dating a non-White individual. The mean level for acceptance for these scenarios was 2.66 (SD=.77) and 2.20 (SD=.81) respectively. A two-way, within-subjects ANOVA was computed to examine if participants viewed the scenarios differently. If was found to be significant, F(1, 44) = 131.84, p <.05. Our fourth hypothesis states that individuals who report high levels of self-esteem would be more accepting of interracial dating. The mean of self-esteem for participants was 8.67 (SD= 1.58). A Pearson Correlation was computed and found not to be significant, r (51)= .04, p > .05. Even though it was not an original hypothesis, we found that there was a racial difference between the way Black viewed society’s acceptance and the way Whites viewed society’s acceptance. The mean for Blacks’ belief on society’s acceptance was 8.6 (SD=1.9) and the mean level for Whites was 9.8 (SD=1.2). A one way, between subjects ANOVA was computed.

We found no evidence to support our four original hypotheses. Our findings are not consistent with the findings of previous research. This difference could be explained by certain limitations of our study. Our first hypothesis stated that men are more accepting of interracial dating than women. Fiebert (2000) found that the most accepting group of interracial dating was White men. Out study was not consistent with Fiebert’s findings. We found there was no significant difference in women’s levels of acceptance and men’s levels of acceptance. This could be due to the lack of male participants in our study. Out of 52 participants, 13 were male. If more male participated in this study, we might have been able to find significant evidence to support this hypothesis. Our second hypothesis stated that Black women are the least accepting group of interracial dating. In Harpalani (1998), it was stated that in other studies, it was found that Black women were the least accepting of interracial dating. Harpalani found that Black women were not very interested in interracial dating, even though they had the opportunity to do so. The findings of our study contradict the findings of previous studies. Black women’s levels of acceptance did not differ than that of Black men and the difference between the levels of White men and women were very minimal. We only have 10 Black females in our study. If this number were greater, significant evidence might have been found to support our hypothesis. The most interesting finding of this study was the fact that non-Whites dating Whites was more accepted than non-Whites dating other non-Whites. In previous studies it was found that non-Whites dating each other was more acceptable. In the dating scenarios, the pairing of a Black man with an Asian woman was least accepted by both races, but especially Black participants. In the scenario, the Black man ends a relationship with a Black woman to pursue a relationship with the Asian women. It makes perfect logical sense why this scenario is not acceptable to Black women. The explanation of why the Whites dating non-Whites is more acceptable is very difficult to understand. Most participants were students from Loyola University, a majority White school. The small minorities at this institution usually spend most of their time with each other. It could appear to some people that minority group keep mostly to themselves and rarely interact with each other. Maybe participants found it difficult to believe that non-White groups would date each other because of their lack of interaction on a daily basis. Our fourth hypothesis stated that individuals who report high levels of self-esteem would be more accepting of interracial relationships. There is no existing research about how self-esteem affects views of interracial dating. There is a vast amount of knowledge on self-esteem. High self-esteem tends to yield toward more positive attitudes. In our study, self-esteem was found not to be a significant factor. This may be due to the fact that most of our participants reported high levels of self-esteem. Only one participant reported a low self-esteem level. Even though it was not an original hypothesis, we found a difference along racial lines when examining how the participants perceived society’s views on interracial dating. Blacks perceived society’s views to be less accepting than Whites. This could be explained for many reasons. Throughout history in the United States, Blacks have been a minority group and many times they have been in oppressive situations. Because of the way society has treated blacks in the past, Blacks today may feel that society is still not accepting of them participating in interracial dating. If a study similar to this were to be conducted in the future, some improvements should be made. A larger sample should be used. This would allow a more diverse group to participant and results will be more likely to generalize to a broader population. Based on the finding of our scenarios, it appears to be a difference in the acceptance levels of different interracial couples. If future researchers use scenarios, more of them should be used and they should include more couples of different backgrounds. Also, efforts should be made to obtain a more racially diverse sample. In certain parts of our statistical analysis, we only looked at our White and Black participants’ responses due to lack of other races. There is a small amount of research that exists about races and their views on interracial dating. Future research should build on the findings of this research and other past research. Overall, our results tend to support a general acceptance of interracial dating. Blacks tended to be a little less accepting than Whites, but this difference was very small. The growing number of interracial couples could explain this overall acceptance of interracial dating. People have probably become use to seeing interracial couples. More people are marrying outside their race, which leads to an increase in the number of multiracial children. These children grow up with a more tolerant attitude towards interracial dating. Interracial dating can still cause some controversy, but it is growing in popularity. More and more individuals are participating in interracial dating. What was once thought of as taboo, is now an everyday occurrence and more people are becoming more accepting.

Croal, A. (2000). Love in black and white. Retrieved September 18, 2001, from Microsoft Encarta Africana.com.Fiebert, M. S., Karamol, H., & Kasdan, M. (2000). Interracial dating: attitudes and experience among american college students in california. Psychological Reports, 87, 1059-1064.Harpalani, V. (1998). Black women’s attitudes towards interracial relationships - A different perspective. Retrieved September 11, 2001, http:// dolphin.upenn.edu.Marstein, B. I., Merighi, J.R., & Malloy, T.E. (1989). Physical attractiveness and exchange theory in interracial dating. The Journal of Social Psychology, 129, 325- 334.Tenzer, L.R. (1990). A completely new look at interracial sexuality: Public opinion andselect commentaries. Manahawkin, New Jersey: Scholars’ Publishing House.Yancey, G.A., & Yancey, S.W. (1997). Black-white differences in the use of personal advertisements for individuals seeking interracial relationships. Journal of Black Studies, 27,650-667.


PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Mukul Bhalla, Ph.D., John Cornwell, Ph.D. Dominique Broussard, Heather WalkerADDRESS and PHONE: Dept. of PsychologyLoyola University New Orleans, LA 70118 (504) 865 - 3125

I understand that I have been asked to participate in a study looking at people’s views on interracial dating. I understand that I will be asked to answer some questions regarding my age, sex, race, etc. and will be asked for my opinion on various dating scenarios. All these tasks will take no more than a total of 30-35 minutes. Before giving my consent by signing this form, I have been sufficiently informed of the purpose of the study and have had the opportunity to ask any questions of the principal investigator regarding this study and my participation in this study. I understand that my identity and all information relating to me will be kept in strict confidence and that only the principal investigators will have knowledge of my identity. My name and signature as they appear on the consent form will be seen only by the principal investigators. I understand that any public report of the results of this study will contain only summarized data, and will not contain any individual data. I understand that I may withdraw my permission at any time and that I may telephone the principal investigators at the number given above or contact the investigators at the address given above in order to ask questions about my participation in the study. I understand that I can obtain the results of this study by visiting www.clearinghouse.mwsc.edu after December 25, 2001. I have read and understand the information given above and I sign this consent form willingly.

SIGNED NAME: _________________________________ DATE: __________ Demographic QuestionnairePlease answer the following questions.

1. Age -----years

2. Sex (circle one): M F

3. Race __________________________

4. Year (circle one): FR SO JR SR

5. If you are currently a student, please provide name of school ---------

6. Are you from the United States? If no, skip to question 8 ________________

7. What region of the U.S. are you from? ______________________

8. What country are you from? _______________________

Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Scale

The following statements deal with how you feel about yourself. Please circle SA if you Strongly Disagree, A if you Agree, D if you Disagree, and SD if you Strongly Disagree.

1. On the whole I am satisfied with myself. SA A D SD

2. At times I think I am no good at all. SA A D SD

3. I feel that I have a number of good qualities. SA A D SD

4. I am able to do things as well as most other people. SA A D SD

5. I feel I do not have much to be proud of. SA A D SD

6. I certainly feel useless at times. SA A D SD

7. I feel that I’m a person of worth, at least on an equal plane with others. SA A D SD

8. I wish I could have more respect for myself. SA A D SD

9. All in all, I am inclined to feel that I am a failure. SA A D SD

10. I take a positive attitude toward myself. SA A D SD

Interracial Dating Scale

For the following scenarios, two scales will be given. For the first scale, please circle the answer that best reflects you attitude. For the second scale, circle the answer that best reflects society’s attitude. Please circle SA if you Strongly Disagree, A if you Agree, D if you Disagree, and SD if you Strongly Disagree.

Christiana, a Latina female, is very shy and she has not really dated before. She and her friend, Brandon, start spending a great deal of time together. Brandon has expressed his interest in having a serious relationship with Christiana. She is very hesitant because Brandon is White, and she is worried about cultural differences that may arise between them. After careful thinking, she decides to pursue a relationship with him. Your attitude: SA A D SD

Society’s attitude: SA A D SD

Josh, a White male, has a dilemma. He does not know who he should to ask out. Tasha is a beautiful, intelligent, athletic, African American female, who is actively involved in school. She is well respected by her peers and teachers. Lauren is an attractive and popular White female. She is also captain of the cheerleading team. However, she has a reputation for dating many guys. Her peers do not think highly of her. Josh has known Tasha for many years. They have had several classes together and they have become good friends. Josh has only known Lauren for a few months. He decides to go out with Lauren, because he feels that they have more in common.

Your attitude: SA A D SD

Society’s attitude: SA A D SD

Dana, a Black female, has been dating Julio, a Hispanic male, for three months. At first, their relationship was great. They were good friends and they got along very well. Lately, they have been engaging in many arguments. Dana disagrees with some of Julio’s family traditions and feels uncomfortable when she is asked to partake in them. Julio doesn’t agree with her family’s religion. Despite all of their differences, Julio is willing to compromise and stay together. On the other hand, Dana feels like their cultural differences cannot be resolved. She decides to stay together and work on the relationship. How do you feel about this decision?

Your attitude: SA A D SD

Society’s attitude: SA A D SD

Malik is the president of the Black Engineers’ Club and star of the track team. He is on the dean’s list and he is the object of many girls’ affection. He has been dating Alicia for three months. Alicia is a very attractive and intelligent Black female. Recently, she has been battling with low self-esteem and she decided that she would look better if she cut off her long hair. This was the start of many arguments between them. Malik realized that he had enough and decided to break up with Alicia. Two weeks later, Malik starts dating Kai. Kai is a very pretty Asian girl with really long hair. She is very shy and quiet, quite the opposite of Alicia. She is still in love with Malik hopes that they can get back together. Malik decides to stay with Kai. How do you feel about his decision?

Your attitude: SA A D SD

Society’s attitude: SA A D SD

Look at the pictures of the following couples. In column one, rank the couples the from 1 to 12. One being the most acceptable by your standards, and 12 being the least acceptable. In column two, rank the couples from most accepted to least accepted by society standards.

Column 1 Column 2

1.______ 1. ______ 2. _____ 2.______3. _____ 3.______4.______ 4.______5.______ 5.______6. ______ 6. ______7. ______ 7. ______8. ______ 8. ______9. ______ 9. ______10. ______ 10.______

11. _______ 11. ______

12. _______ 12. _______

Submitted 12/16/2001 10:37:03 PM
Last Edited 12/16/2001 10:57:44 PM
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