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Sectarianism, Children and Community Relations in Northern Ireland.


The impact of the conflict in Northern Ireland on children, and the related question of the emergence and development of prejudice, has produced a large and varied literature. The new research reported here by Paul Connolly and Paul Maginn takes a close and critical look at this literature and uses the conclusions wrought from this examination to present ideas about how such work can be extended and taken in new directions.

The review of existing work is very balanced and fair, acknowledging the intellectual rigour and innovative approaches developed in attempts to penetrate the hidden worlds and world views of children. The importance of the contact hypothesis as a source of ideas and research approaches is also acknowledged, but this is accompanied by an illuminating and constructive critique of some understanding of this hypothesis.

The review leads to a series of proposals and suggestions about ways of extending and widening work on children and prejudice, including ideas relating to different contexts, different research approaches and new questions about the relative success of different forms of contact.

The report concludes with the results of a study of two P7 classes at a Catholic and a Protestant school in Northern Ireland. This exploratory but highly original study is described by the authors as an attempt to 'model out' a new and productive research technique. The results are illuminating and present strong evidence for the view (among others) that 'the expression of sectarianism among children can only by fully understood within the particular sub-cultural contexts within which it occurs'.

The Centre for the Study of Conflict is pleased to add this thoughtful and imaginative study to its list of internal publications.

Professor Seamus Dunn

July 1999