Acculturation and religion in schools: the views of young people from minority belief backgrounds

Ulrike Niens, Alison Mawhinney, Norman Richardson, Yuko Chiba

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper aims to explore the relationship between religious identity, acculturation strategies and perceptions of acculturation orientation in the school context amongst young people from minority
    belief backgrounds. Based on a qualitative study including interviews with 26 young people from religious minority belief backgrounds in Northern Ireland, it is argued that acculturation theory provides a useful lens for understanding how young people from religious minority belief backgrounds navigate majority religious school contexts. Using a qualitative approach to explore acculturation theory enables an in-depth understanding of the inter-relationship between minority belief youth’s acculturation strategies and their respective school contexts. Similar to previous research, integrationist attitudes generally prevailed amongst minority belief young people in this study. The findings highlight how young people negotiate their religious identities in a complex web of inter-relationships between their minority religious belief community and the mainstream school culture as represented through peer and staff attitudes, school ethos and practices and religious education. Young people demonstrated differentiated understandings of acculturation orientations within the school context, which they evaluated on the basis of complex perceptions of educational policy, interpersonal relationships and individuals’ motivations. Findings are discussed in view of acculturation tensions, which arose particularly in relation to the religious education curriculum and their implications for opt-out provision as stipulated by human rights law.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)907-924
    Number of pages18
    JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
    Issue number5
    Early online date26 Sep 2012
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Education


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