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Topic Background: Peace education initiatives in schools are often based on social psychological
theories assuming that social identity affects ingroup and outgroup attitudes and, in turn, behaviors
relating to relevant outgroups. However, research evidence on the role of children's social identity has
often failed to take account of different social identity dimensions or to conceptualise behavior in the
context of children's understandings of the social world. While recent research relating to bullying and
bystander behavior amongst children has addressed the latter point, this has rarely been considered
in conjunction with a differentiated view of social identity. This paper is therefore distinctive as it will
address the role of social identity dimensions with regards to reported behavior as captured in
bystander scenarios relating to outgroup derogation. This is particularly important in the context of
divided societies, where peace education initiatives are crucial in promoting positive community
relations for the future and where such initiative may be hampered by communities' concerns about
loss of identity. In the context of Northern Ireland, a divided society emerging from conflict, social
identity, outgroup attitudes and behaviours have been key concepts addressed by peace educators
for many years.
Research questions: This paper therefore set out to investigate the relationship between social
identity, measured as affiliation with the group and exploration of its meaning for the child, sectarian
attitudes and pupils' reported willingness to challenge sectarian bullying in their school environment in
Northern Ireland.
Research methods: The findings are based on the analysis of a baseline survey, which forms part of a
randomised control trial of an intervention aimed at promoting community relations and reconciliation.
The trial includes 35 primary and post-primary schools and about 800 pupils from 8-11 years old who
completed an online questionnaire at the start of the programme. Main instruments for this study
included adapted scales measuring identity affiliation and identity exploration, sectarian attitudes and
scenarios capturing pupils' intentions in bystander situations relating to sectarian bullying.
Analytical framework: Results are analysed using regression analysis and additionally investigate
gender and religious differences.
Research findings and/or contribution to knowledge: Results are discussed in the light of the role of
social identity dimensions and their relationship to outgroup attitudes and willingness to challenge
outgroup derogation. The paper concludes with potential implications for peace education initiatives in
Northern Ireland and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
Publication dateSep 2012


ConferenceBritish Educational Research Association, Annual Conference
CountryUnited Kingdom

ID: 1739909