Författare: Olov Aronson

Handledare: Arne Gerdner, Sofia Enell, Michael Wells


In the last few decades, an increasing number of individuals of foreign origin have settled in Sweden. Today, about one quarter of Swedish adolescents are of foreign origin. The social integration of individuals of foreign origin is a challenge for Swedish society. Informed by previous research, the present dissertation suggests that successful social integration involves friendship formation between peers of similar origins (intra-origin friendship formation) as well as friendship formation between peers of different origins (inter-origin friendship formation). Social integration can be difficult to achieve in practice because most individuals tend to be homophilic and form intra-origin friendships rather than inter-origin friendships.

The present dissertation aims to understand some of the opportunities for and influences on intra-origin and inter-origin friendship formation among adolescents in Sweden. Four studies are presented. The first study seeks to widen the understanding of refugee girls’ friendship formation through a qualitative analysis of interviews with 12 refugee adolescent girls from the research project Resettlement Strategies in Families. The second, third, and fourth studies analyze quantitative data from the research project Longitudinal Research on Development In Adolescence (LoRDIA). Using stochastic actor-oriented models, the second study (n = 471) investigates the friendship formation of native and foreign adolescents who have supportive and/or controlling parent-child relationships. The third study (n = 203) presents cross-lagged panel models for the reciprocal longitudinal associations between friendship formation and two forms of leisure: visits to youth centers and participation in structured leisure activities. Finally, the fourth study (n = 406) estimates stochastic actor-oriented models to investigate the friendship formation of native and foreign adolescents who are involved in different forms of digital leisure, including online communication, video watching, and digital gaming.

The results suggest that native and foreign adolescents do not spontaneously form an increasing number of friendships with each other over time. Some refugee girls in the first study claimed that they formed close friendships with family members, such as cousins and siblings, rather than peers of native origin because they experienced the latter as too dissimilar from themselves. The adolescents in the second study formed relatively more inter-origin friendships when their parents were supportive, and they formed fewer inter-origin friendships when their parents were controlling. According to the third study, visits to youth centers predicted a larger number of intra-origin friendships among adolescents of foreign origin, while participation in structured leisure activities, such as sports and cultural projects, predicted a larger number of friends regardless of origin. The findings of the fourth study suggested that native adolescents who were involved in digital gaming formed fewer friendships with native peers and had fewer friends outside of the school class, and foreign adolescents who communicated more online formed fewer friendships with native classmates but more friendships outside of the school class.

All four studies indicate that the social integration of adolescents of foreign origin is not an automatic process that invariably happens when adolescents of different origins are “mixed” in the same locations. When adolescents organize their own social lives away from the involvement of adults, they remain or become more homophilic and form more friendships with peers of their own origin. By contrast, native and foreign adolescents tend to form more inter-origin friendships when adults provide them with support and contribute to organizing structured social activities.


Vetenskapsrådet, Forte, Vinnova, Formas.

Kontaktperson Olof Aronson, Hälsohögskolan i Jönköping

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