07 SES 08 C, The Role of Religion in Educational Processes
The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement reached in 1998 marked a turning point in the Northern Ireland conflict that heralded the beginning of a comparatively more peaceful period in the troubled history of the region. Notwithstanding this welcome transition, sectarian tensions remain a feature of life, and relations between the main Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland continue to define political, religious and social affaires. Explanations of hostile inter-group relations in Northern Ireland are manifold but an enduring focus is the existence of largely exclusive and contiguous political and religious in-group and out-group identities (Jarman, 2005). Successive population surveys have shown that the majority of Catholics prefer to label themselves as Irish and Nationalist, and the majority of Protestants prefer to label themselves as Northern Irish or British and Unionist. Consistent with existing social psychological literature that maintains intergroup hostility can be elucidated by social categorization (Doise, Deschamps & Meyer, 1978; McGarty & Penny, 1988; Tajfel, 1959; see McGarty, 1999 for a review), categorical processes are considered integral to understanding the nature of community relations in Northern Ireland (Crisp, Hewstone & Cairns, 2001). Specifically, it is argued that the predominantly dichotomous identity structure referred to above contributes to prejudice and inter-group tension. For this reason, it has been suggested that modifications to identity categorisation can attenuate category based prejudice and conflict.
It has long been recognised that existing levels of segregation may help sustain simplistic patterns of identification, and that one way of challenging the negative affect is through the type of intergroup contact that can lead to the development of shared or cross-cutting identity categories that exist alongside dominant identity representations. The contact hypothesis, proposed by Allport (1954), maintains that interaction between two opposing groups under optimal conditions can lead to reduced prejudice. Over the years, an impressive amount of research has expanded upon Allport’s initial formulation transforming the hypothesis into an integrated theory (Hewstone, 2009), and suggesting by and large that as a mechanism of prejudice reduction, contact works (Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006). Prior research in Northern Ireland has focused on comparisons of ethnically mixed and segregated residential areas (Hughes et al., 2008; Campbell et al., 2008) and educational settings (Hughes, 2013). In both instances, the evidence suggests that the mixed group context encourages the promotion of more complex identities. These findings chime with other research that has demonstrated an association between the multiplicity of identities an individual holds and less prejudicial attitudes (Schmid et al., 2009). These findings point to the importance of trying to identify and understand the contexts that support the development of more sustained intergroup interactions and the processes involved in the emergence of new or alternative forms of identification.
In this paper, we extend the contact research to examine identity in perhaps the most intimate social situations, that of the family. Uniquely, we compare the in-group identities and social attitudes of school children who are the offspring of both single identity (Catholic or Protestant) parentage and mixed religion (one Catholic and one Protestant) parentage. It is intended that the research will further understanding of the contact hypothesis as a mechanism of positive social change, and in doing so, help elucidate why and when contact is effective in other societal contexts, both in Northern Ireland and any country where intergroup relations are underpinned by division.
Allport, G. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Cambridge. MA: Perseus Books. Campbell, A., Hughes, J., Hewstone, M., & Cairns, E. (2008). Social capital as a mechanism for building a sustainable society in Northern Ireland. Community Development Journal, 45(1), 22-38. Crisp, R. J., Hewstone, M., & Cairns, E. (2001). Multiple identities in Northern Ireland: Hierarchical ordering in the representation of group membership. British Journal of Social Psychology, 40(4), 501-514. Dixon, J., & Levine, M. (Eds.). (2012). Beyond prejudice: Extending the social psychology of conflict, inequality and social change. Cambridge University Press. Doise, W., Deschamps, J.C., Meyer, G. (1978). The accentuation of intracategory similarities. In H, Tajfel (Ed.). Differentiation between social groups: Studies in the social psychology of intergroup relations. London : Academic Press. Hewstone, M. (2009). Living apart, living together? The role of intergroup contact in social integration. Proceedings of the British Academy, 162, 243-300.Hewstone, M. E., & Brown, R. E. (1986). Contact and conflict in intergroup encounters. Basil Blackwell. Hughes, J., Campbell, A., Hewstone, M., & Cairns, E. (2008). “What’s There to Fear?”—A Comparative Study of Responses to the Out-Group in Mixed and Segregated Areas of Belfast. Peace & Change, 33(4), 522-548. Hughes, J., Campbell, A., Lolliot, S., Hewstone, M., & Gallagher, T. (2013). Intergroup contact at school and social attitudes: Evidence from Northern Ireland. Oxford Review of Education, 39, 6, 761-779. Jarman, N. (2005). No Longer a Problem? Sectarian Violence in Northern Ireland. Belfast: OFM&DFM McGarty, C. (1999). Categorization in social psychology. Sage. McGarty, C., & Penny, R. E. C. (1988). Categorization, accentuation and social judgement. British Journal of Social Psychology, 27(2), 147-157. Pettigrew, T. F., & Tropp, L. P. (2006). A meta-analytic test of intergroup contact theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 751-783. doi: 10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.1991 Schmid, K., Hewstone, M., Tausch, N., Cairns, E., & Hughes, J. (2009). Antecedents and consequences of social identity complexity: Intergroup contact, distinctiveness threat, and outgroup attitudes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35(8), 1085-1098. Tajfel, H. (1959). Quantitative judgment in social perception. British Journal of Psychology, 50(1), 16-29.
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