Flags are conceptual representations that can prime nationalism and allegiance to ones group. Investigating childrens understanding of conflict-related ethno-national flags in divided societies sheds light on the development of national categories. We explored the development of childrens awareness of, and preferences for, ethnonational flags in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, and the Republic of North Macedonia. Children displayed early categorization of, and ingroup preferences for, ethno-national flags. By middle-childhood, childrens conflict-related social categories shaped systematic predictions about others group-based preferences for flags. Children of minoritystatus groups demonstrated more accurate flag categorization and were more likely to accurately infer others flag preferences. While most Balkan children preferred divided versus integrated ethno-national symbols, children in the Albanian majority group in Kosovo demonstrated preferences for the new supra-ethnic national flag. We discuss the implications of childrens ethno-national flag categories on developing conceptualizations of nationality and the potential for shared national symbols to promote peace.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We would like to thank the many schools, parents, and children who participated in this research. The research was carried out as part of the Helping Kids! lab (helpingkidsqubblog.wordpress.com), with financial support from the School of Psychology Research Incentivisation Scheme ( RIS ) at Queen’s University, Belfast and the Department for the Economy (DfE) – Global Challenge Research Fund ( GCRF ) Award [ DFEGCRF 17-18/Taylor] and continuing support from GCRF-GIAA 18-19/Taylor and British Psychological Society, Social Psychology Section, Pump-priming and Dissemination Fund Application. We also thank Risa Rylander for project management and Michal Fux and Amilcar Barreto for their helpful comments in the shaping of this paper. There are no conflicts of interest in the preparation or publication of this paper.
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- intergroup conflict
- social cognition
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Cultural Studies
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)