Youth Identity, Peace and Conflict: Insights from Conflict and Diverse Settings

Shelley McKeown, Duygu Cavdar, Laura Taylor

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

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Many of today’s youth are growing up and developing their sense of self in settings where identities are contested. Such identity dynamics play a key role in societal functioning, with group conflict often arising and being maintained due to competing social identities. Understanding how youth develop these social identities, and the consequences for peaceful and violent behaviours is of urgent importance in order to design appropriate policies and interventions. Much of the social psychological research on identity is based on social identity theory, which posits that we divide our world into social categories and define ourselves in terms of group belonging. The expressions of these social identities can be both positive and negative in how they are manifested in conflict and diverse settings. Whilst research often focuses on the negative side of identification (e.g., prejudice), identities can also be a source of peace; fostering individual belonging in society and under certain conditions, collective identities can also bring together groups in conflict. In this chapter, we briefly review the development of adolescent ethnic identity and then focus on the impact of identity for youth in conflict and diverse settings, highlighting positive and negative effects. This includes a consideration of the consequences of identity for peaceful and non-peaceful behaviours in Northern Ireland as well as how identity develops for ethnic minority youth in England. We conclude by providing suggestions for policy, practice and future research, arguing that a comprehensive account of the role of youth in society cannot be complete without understanding the development and consequences of identity processes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChildren and Peace: From Research to Action
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2019


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