Researchers Illuminate the Importance of Making New Friends in College

A new study, co-authored by Ohio State faculty, has found that friendships developed during the first year of college can be life-long and help students become adults who have bridged cultural divides and develop broader worldviews. Researchers believe this important aspect of the first-year experience will help future generations embrace their differences and come together.

One hundred some students of varying races and religions answered questions about how their close friendships with those who had different religious traditions, political ideas, different cultural backgrounds etc. influenced their outlooks on those with different world views than themselves.

Researchers said that previous studies had proven that the most important factor in a successful college career was a positive learning experience with faculty. The second indicator, more important than learning, graduation rates and economic gains, has been a good relationship with peers. Researchers say their new study illuminates the powerful outcomes of these positive peer relationships.

When first-year students arrive at college, they are typically open to making new friends. This is especially true if they are leaving home for the first time and/or don’t know anyone at their college already.

The college experience is unique in that it places people of different beliefs in a situation where they are spending a lot of time together and living closely with one another.
The study found that 64% of students who had no interworldview friendships when they began college—interworldview friendship is what researchers are calling those friendships with people of different beliefs or cultures—made at least one interworldview friend the first year. 20% of this group claimed to have made five or more interworldview friendships by the end of their first year.

Researchers believe these kinds of peer relationships are absolutely essential to the college experience and that the benefits are measurably positive.

OSU Researchers Study Violence and Find Its Spreads like Disease

A new study of U.S. adolescents provides some of the best evidence to date of how violence spreads like a contagious disease.
Researchers found that adolescents were up to 183 percent more likely to carry out some acts of violence if one of their friends had also committed the same act.

But the spread of violence doesn’t just stop at friends – results suggest the contagion extends by up to four degrees of separation – from one person to a friend, to the friend’s friend and two more friends beyond.

Results showed that participants in the study were 48 percent more likely to have been in a serious fight, 183 percent more likely to have hurt someone badly, and 140 percent more likely to have pulled a weapon on someone if a friend had engaged in the same behavior.

This study is the first to show how far violent behavior may spread within a social network, Bond said. The findings showed that the influence of one person’s violent act can spread up to two degrees of separation (friend of a friend) for hurting someone badly, three degrees (friend of a friend’s friend) for pulling a weapon on someone, and four degrees for serious fights. The influence declines with each degree of separation, but is still noticeable.

Researchers think that one important factor of this study could be to demonstrate the value of anti-violence programs.