The development of national in-group bias: English children's attributions of characteristics to English, American and German people

M. Barrett, H. Wilson, Evanthia Lyons

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Abstract

This study investigated the development of national in-group bias in 5-11-year-old children. Three hundred and seven English children were asked to attribute characteristics to their own national group either on its own or in conjunction with attributing characteristics to one of two national out-groups, either Americans or Germans. The importance which the children ascribed to their own national identity in relationship to their other social identities was also assessed. It was found that, with increasing age, there was an increase in the number of negative characteristics attributed to the national in-group, and an increase in the number of positive characteristics attributed to the two out-groups, the net result being an overall reduction in in-group bias across this age range. However, in-group favouritism was still exhibited at all ages. Greater importance was attributed to national identity with increasing age. However, the characteristics attributed to the English in-group did not vary as a function of the comparative out-group which was present while the attributions were being made. The presence of a comparative out-group also did not affect the importance that was ascribed to the national identity. These findings suggest that children are relatively insensitive to the prevailing comparative context when making judgments about national groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-220
Number of pages28
JournalBritish Journal of Developmental Psychology
Volume21
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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