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Title: The micro-ecology of religious segregation in Northern Ireland
Author: McKeown, Shelley Andrea
Awarding Body: University of Ulster
Current Institution: Ulster University
Date of Award: 2012
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Intergroup contact theory suggests that bringing groups together under favourable conditions will lead to positive intergroup relations (Allport, 1954). Whilst the contact effect has attained substantial empirical support (Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006) and provided a valuable contribution, it is not without its critics. Commentators have criticised contact research for focusing on self-report measures of prejudice and optimal contact conditions, often in laboratory settings (Dixon, Tredoux & Clack, 2005b). Addressing these drawbacks researchers have been examining intergroup contact through behavioural observations at the micro-level in everyday life spaces. Results from these studies suggest that even in shared space groups remain segregated in homogenous clusters. The research reported here used this micro-ecological behavioural approach to examine intergroup contact amongst Protestant and Catholic young people in Northern Ireland. This involved the development of an innovative seat mapping technique. In the first study the seating behaviour of pupils in 12 classrooms from three integrated schools were examined at three points in time (September, January and June) over the school year. In the second study the seating behaviour and attitudes measured through infrahumanization were examined in three classrooms in a Further Education college at two time points (September and January) in the college year. The final studies examined intergroup behaviour and attitudes through infrahumanization, intergroup anxiety and self-esteem as well as focus groups amongst young people attending a cross-community contact intervention. Results demonstrate the persistence of informal segregation between Protestant and Catholic young people in Northern Ireland. It was only in the contact intervention study that behaviour and attitudes were found to change, to more favourable attitudes and less segregation, over time. This demonstrates that developing shared space does not necessarily lead to meaningful intergroup contact with informal segregation remaining. It is argued that these findings have important implications for methodology, theory and policy in divided societies trying to recover from intergroup conflict.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available