An experimental study of the effectiveness of group therapeutic techniques in improving black-white relations among university students.
Naidoo, Lohirajh Ravindra.
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The need for an effective group programme to improve Black-White relations on desegregated university campuses in South Africa was identified as the focal area of concern of this study. A particularly urgent need to address the issue of Black-White relations in the University of Natal was shown to exist in view of its rapidly increasing multiracial student composition relative to other South African university campuses. Local and international literature was reviewed to provide guidelines for the construction and evaluation of appropriate programmes that reflected the dominant approaches that characterise group therapeutic strategies of improving intergroup relations. A significant absence of rigorous scientific evaluation of intervention strategies was noted. Two longitudinal, biracial group programmes were selected for evaluation viz. Group Programme A and Group Programme B. Programme A was reflective of a confrontational approach and Programme B was reflective of a non-confrontational approach. The programmes were based on the assumptions of humanistic psychotherapy, social psychological and sociological theories of prejudice formation and racism, and social learning theory. The project utilised an experimental before and after control group design. Forty five Black and 45 White students were randomly selected from a pool of first-year university students who fulfilled designated selection criteria. Fifteen Black and 15 White students were randomly assigned to Groups A, B and C. Groups A and B were subjected to Programmes A and B respectively while Group C was used as the control group. Four evaluation measures were used pretest and posttest viz. the Philosophy of Human Nature Scale, Heimler Scale of Social Functioning, Racial Discomfort Questionnaire and a Behavioural Interaction Change assessment. All four research hypotheses adopted were confirmed by the data analysis. The study highlighted the effectiveness of Group Programme A in improving Black-White relations. It was demonstrated that contact per se was not sufficient to improve race relations among university students. The central importance of developing insight into barriers in interracial communication was emphasised. While both Black and White students benefitted significantly from their participation in the Group Programmes, Black students derived fewer benefits than White students. Several recommendations were made for the utilisation of the research findings in university and wider communities. Further research possibilities arising from the present study were explored.