Measuring the macrosystem in post-accord Northern Ireland: A social-ecological approach

Dana Townsend, Laura Taylor, Andrea Furey, Christine E. Merrilees, Marcie Goeke-Morey, Peter Shirlow, Mark Cummings

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The macrosystem refers to the overarching patterns that influence behavior at each level of the social ecology (Bronfenbrenner, 1977), making it a necessary component for assessing human development in contexts of political violence. This article proposes a method for systematically measuring the macrosystem in Northern Ireland that allows for a subnational analysis, multiple time units, and indicators of both low-level violence and positive relations. Articles were randomly chosen for each weekday in 2006-2011 from two prominent Northern Irish newspapers and coded according to their reflection of positive relations and political tensions between Catholics and Protestants. The newspaper data were then compared to existing macro-level measurements in Northern Ireland. We found that the newspaper data provided a more nuanced understanding of fluctuations in intergroup relations than the corresponding measures. This has practical implications for peacebuilding and advances our methods for assessing the impact of macro-level processes on individual development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)282-286
JournalPeace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016


  • social ecology
  • intergroup conflict
  • macrosystem
  • newspaper data
  • northern ireland


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