„Толку блиску, а толку далечни!“ – Социјалната оддалеченост и заедништвото со „другите“

Прашањето на заедничко живеење во разновидност е тесно поврзано со искуствата и перцепциите за тоа колку сакаме да се дружиме, учиме, споделуваме и сочувствуваме со „другите“. Споделување на задачи и соработка можеме да очекуваме во понатамошниот живот да се ефектуираат во прифаќање на разновидноста и реалистично гледање на мултикултурализмот, споделување на ресурси и пријателства. Времето и особено квалитетно поминатото време со другите, влијае и врз ставовите и однесувањето кон нив, особено после конфликт.

Социјалната поделеност е дел од реалноста во Македонија исто како и на други места што биле погодени од конфликти. Денес во Македонија децата посетуваат настава според нивниот мајчин јазик што во голема мерка коинцидира со нивната етничка припадност. Ваквата определба на политиките, во однос на физичкиот простор и заедничките активности резултираше со преферирање на паралелизам и поделеност наспроти интеграција. Овие одделни и паралелни структури ја обликуваат средината каде што учат децата, како и нивните ставови и однесувања кон „другите“. И додека прифаќањето на разновидноста не е иста со „живеењето“ на разновидноста како животен стил, сепак, поради социјалната блискост и соработка можеме да очекуваме децата како возрасни да покажуваат поголемо прифаќање на разновидноста и реалистично гледање на мултикултурализмот, споделување на ресурси и пријателства.со „другите“. Времето и особено квалитетно поминатото време со другите, влијае и врз ставовите и однесувањето кон нив, особено после конфликт.

На која возраст децата во Македонија стануваат свесни за сликите и симболите кои ги идентификуваат како група? Како идентификацијата со својата група влијае кон социјалната оддалеченост од „другите“?

За таа цел, во 2017-18 година, преку проектот Помагање на децата!“ (Helping Kids!) истражувавме како идентификацијата со симболите и социјалните структури на сопствената група кај децата на возраст од шест до единаесет години влијае кон нивните ставови и однесување кон „другиот“. Игравме серија на игри прилагодена за возраста со деца од училишта каде наставата се одвива на македонски и албански јазик, со вкупно 219 ученици. На пример, децата беа запрашани дали серија од 16 парови на слики, или вкупно 32, ги поврзуваат со Албанци или Македонци. Одбравме слики од различни аспекти на социјалниот живот, како религија, култура, храна, политика, спорт и животот во нивните средини.

Главно, децата беа спремни да ги категоризираат сите 32 слики со една од двете групи, и тоа повеќе од само како случајност. На пример, слика од македонското знаме го асоцираа со македонската етничка група. Но, детектиравме и разлики според возраста.

На возраст од шест години, децата можат да категоризираат девет од сликите (плоштадот на Скендербег, македонското знаме, албанското знаме, македонската азбука, имам/оџа, дресот на Ренова, симболот на поддржувачите на Балистите и улица напишана на албански јазик) како македонски или албански симболи. На возраст од седум години, децата можат да категоризираат 16 од сликите и симболите со некоја етничка група додека до десетгодишна возраст сите 32 слики. Односно, како созреваат, децата подобро ги асоцираа сликите со соодветната социјална група. Резултатите укажуваат дека овие сознанија се зголемуваат со возраста, како што поминуваат повеќе време во јазично поделени паралелки и средини.

Овие сознанија кои се базирани на групните разлики влијаат и врз нивното чувство за заедништво со „другите“. Колку повеќе децата се свесни за симболите и сликите на групите кои некогаш биле во конфликт, толку повеќе ги преферираат симболите на својата група. Децата кои се посвесни за симболите на својата група, почесто и преферираат слики кои се асоцираат со нивната етничка група. Децата кои повеќе споделуваат ресурси (на пример, стикери како награда) со својата група исто така помалку им се допаѓаат и помалку им веруваат на лица со друго етничко потекло. Исто така, споделувањето на повеќе ресурси со својата група е поврзано со помала желба да се игра со деца со друго етничко потекло и помалку пријателства.

Генерално кажано, преференциите за сопствената група се рефлектираат и како желба за поголема социјална дистанца од „другите“ и како повеќе перципиран конфликт помеѓу групите. Ова е важно затоа што колку децата поминуваат повеќе време во јазично поделени паралелки и средини толку се зголемува јазот помеѓу нив. А тоа се зајакнува со преференција за сопственото знаме наспроти ситуациите во кои се вејат знамињата на македонската и албанската етничка заедница заедно и особено што повеќе перципиран конфликт е поврзано со поголема социјална дистанца.

Сепак, светлата страна е дека претходните позитивни искуства со „другите“ можат да се спротивстават на овие сегрегирачки тенденции. Колку повеќе време децата поминуваат заедно со „другите“ толку е помала перцепцијата за социјална дистанца помеѓу нив односно повеќе им се допаѓаат, им веруваат и сакаат да ги играат со „другите“. Исто така, колку повеќе другари со различно етничко потекло имаат, толку е помала перцепцијата за социјална дистанца помеѓу нив. На пример, еден татко (Албанец) чија ќерка оди во училиште каде наставата се одвива на македонски и албански јазик ни кажа: „Јас сум многу среќен што мојата ќерка ми кажува дека има многу пријатели кои се Македонци. Ова е многу позитивна вест за мене и овие пријателства ги воспостави во школо.“

Проектите кои изминатите години се спроведуваа со цел за меѓуетничка интеграција во образованието беа насочени кон создавање на краткотрајни и долготрајни можности за контакт помеѓу децата и наставниот и стручен кадар во претходно испланирани активности. Според експертите, нивните најголеми резултати се опфатот на ученици, училишта и наставен и стручен кадар и малите, но значајни промени во политиките (на национални и локално ниво) додека најголеми недостатоци се зависноста од странски донатори и отсуството на позитивен role-модел на возрасни во плодоносна и спонтана меѓуетничка соработка (ад-хок и недостатокот од трансфер од професионална соработка во пријателства).

Препораките за политиките од ова истражување укажуваат дека градењето на долготраен мир треба да почне од рана возраст. Децата мора да имаат можност да стапуваат во интеракција и да создаваат пријателства со оние од другите етнички групи. Повеќе можности за позитивен контакт помеѓу групите се неопходни. И овие можности за контакт треба да се базираат на претпоставките за еднаквост помеѓу групите и поттикнување на активности кои се интересни и иновативни за децата, и кои се базираат на заедничкото добро. „Кога децата се во меѓусебен контакт, тие секогаш покажуваат љубопитност и обично резултатите се позитивни“ “– ни укажа професорка во основно школо (жена, Албанка). „Краткотрајни и долготрајни активности кои се приентирани кон продукти, во рамки на редовната настава и во рамките на екстра-курикулум активностите, партнерства помеѓу училиштата и наставниот кадар од различни региони и наставни јазици се неопходност во поддршка на интеретничката интеграција во образование“ – наведува практичарка во проекти за интеретничка интеграција (жена, Македонка).

Дотолку повеќе што политиките за меѓуетничка интеграција треба да се прошират и надвор од училиштата, кон местата на живеење, возрасните. „Најтешко достапна група ни се родителите и потребни се повеќе напори за да се вклучат во целни активности во училиштата и заедницата“ – посочува практичарка од областа на мултиетничка интеграција во образованието (жена, Ромка).

Разбирањето на овие ефекти може да им помогне на проектите за помирување и градење на мир кои се базирани на соодветни истражувања кои помагаат во разбирање на основите на односите помеѓу групите.

Развивањето и зајакнувањето на попозитивни ставови за другите групи и можности за помагање помеѓу групите може да има ветувачки, долготрајни импликации за градење на поконструктивни односите помеѓу групите во Македонија.

Published on RadioMof.

The Colors that Divide

On the 11th anniversary of Kosovo’s independence, how do our children now view their own national and ethnic identities?

Symbols and images can act as powerful markers of identity. They are an important element of the way that a group, in a certain context, becomes ‘one.

National flags, language signs, traditional ethnic and religious clothing, and important statues or sites are some of the ways children come to recognize social groups. This awareness has important implications for resolution after conflict.

How and when children recognize names, symbols and social markers influences how they understand and identify with relevant social groups. More importantly, how children identify with one group also affects their attitudes and behaviours toward ‘others’ that belong to the other groups particularly after conflict.

But what is the story of symbols common among Kosovo children? In particular, how do young generations born and raised after the Kosovo war and the 2008 declaration of independence respond to these symbols? How do they understand the symbols and markers associated with the new Kosovar national identity compared with those from ethnic Albanian and Serbian identities?

More importantly, are these national icons able to help foster a shared identity instead of perpetuating exiting division between ethnic groups?

Developing the Kosovo identity

Generally, the development of the Kosovo flag and national anthem following the country’s independence has shown that people feel strongly about the icons that represent them nationally. Creating these national categories and symbols in inclusive terms is often engineered to help repair intergroup relations.

Their neutrality can provide new ways to reconsider and redefine the groups’ picture by moving away from an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ view, to a new common ‘we’.

Inclusiveness can develop more positive attitudes towards previously antagonistic ethnic groups. Yet, creating inclusive national symbols does not necessarily erase group distinctions rooted in the history of intergroup conflict.

It takes time to make them meaningful and functional. It is a hard process, especially for people who identify strongly with other group categories or those that belong to ethnic minorities. To them, identifying with the new national symbols feels like a loss of identity       

National and ethnic symbols in the eyes of children

Recent work by a team of social, cognitive and developmental psychologists shows that even at early ages, children are aware of the icons around them and what they represent.

The study, called ‘Helping Kids! Promoting positive intergroup relations and peacebuilding in divided societies,’ found that six to eleven-year-olds in Kosovo can readily and accurately perceive common social markers – such as icons or images – associated with conflict-related groups (i.e. either as being Albanian or as being Serb.)

In a series of interactive games, Albanian (119) and Serb (101) children were shown 13 pairs of images (26 in total) anticipated as either Albanian or Serbian. As early as six, children could categorize a church, a street sign for Gracanica and the Serbian National football jersey as Serbian, and not Albanian.

By age seven, children could associate 20 of the images and symbols with each ethnic group. By age 10, children were able to categorize all 26 images with their respective ethnic group label.

Kosovo Albanian and Serb children not only readily categorized all images, but their recognition also increased with age. This suggests that as children of these ethnic groups grow older, their awareness of group markers and group differences becomes more and more evident.

Growing older is not the only reason for this ability to identify and categorize these symbols and images.

A Kosovo Albanian representative of a local educational NGO said that “There is no cooperation between different groups mainly due to the separation of classes and schools, and lack of common spaces.”

Given that these children are brought up in divided schools, with minimal or no inter-ethnic contact, the system feeds on these ethnic polarizations very early on. It strips children away from the possibility to interact with children from the other ethnic group and witness first-hand how the ‘other’ really is.

The practice of separation of classes and schools based on ethnicity has been cemented by decades of segregation, and has its roots in the ‘90s when different schools for children of different ethnicities became the norm.

“It is among children that things are the worst,” said a Kosovo Serb teacher in the study. “If children do not have a chance to engage with other children from different backgrounds, they will not develop a sense of tolerance.”

When asked to choose which flag they preferred, children from both groups showed a higher preference for own ethnic flag, Albanian or Serbian (68 per cent) over the Kosovo flag (32 per cent) the older they got. And, if children preferred the Albanian or Serbian flag over the Kosovo flag, they also wanted more social distance between the respective ethnic groups.  

This preference for one’s own ethnic group over what is envisioned to be an inclusive Kosovo national flag may indicate children’s preference for ethnic separation in schools, neighborhoods or the cities they live in. This is most probably affected by the narratives that adults – primarily parents and teachers  – use with children.

“Parents’ biased attitudes are reflected upon children  – therefore ensuing that lack of contact and interaction between them continues even more,” said one Kosovo Albanian education official.

A Kosovo Serb teacher who participated in the study echoed these sentiments.

“When it comes to conflict and how children perceive it, the children that I teach know about the conflict based on the stories their parents or grandparents told them. However, they only know one side of the story – one where Serbs are victims. They don’t actually know the causes of the war, and they are afraid that something similar could happen again.”

According to a Kosovo Serb community activist that participated in the study, the consequences of the past reflect in the the present and the future.

“Our youngest children… of Serbian ethnicity tend to see Kosovo as having been taken from them by Albanians – or at least attempted to be taken away.”“Those from the Albanian side see Kosovo as an independent country, which Serbs refuse to let go of.”

The bright side of the story

It is clear that previous experiences can help children counteract this pattern. First, children with more contact with children from the other ethnic group preferred the national Kosovo flag alongside their own Albanian or Serbian flags.

When they were shown an integrated picture that included an Albanian or Serbian flag flying alongside the Kosovo flag, 48 per cent of children preferred the integrated flags,  almost as much as their ethnic ones standing on their own (52 per cent). This suggests stronger preferences for symbols that convey dual identities (ethnic and national together) compared to those where children have to make a preferential choice of either ethnic or national (Kosovar) identity.    

Understanding how symbols as group identity markers unfold for Kosovar children has important implications for the future. These generations can serve as an important catalyst for promoting peace in the years ahead and safeguard possible future conflicts.

“Exposure to children from each ethnic group is crucial. My personal desire would be to see an integrated, dual-language education system. Until that is possible, education policy makers should prioritize learning English to enable dialogue, and running mixed ethnic youth groups and children’s activities,” said the Kosovo Serb community activist.

The Serbian language is an official language alongside the Albanian one.

“It would be great to see a history curriculum in all schools which reflects a balanced account of the conflict,” she continued.

Although the conflict in Kosovo ended twenty years ago, it has had lasting effects on the post-conflict generation, especially the young born and raised after the country’s independence.

Long-term peacebuilding must start early. Children must have the chance to interact with and become friends with those from other ethnic groups as well as engage in meaningful intergroup experiences.

Fostering more positive attitudes and opportunities may have promising, long-term implications from more constructive intergroup relations. At the same time, supporting the creation of an inclusive overarching national identity, by use of shared symbols and icons on Kosovo, can support a healthy society for generations to come.

Working on these antecedents of peacebuilding with primary school children may hold promise for Kosovo’s future anniversaries in the years to come.

Post by Edona Maloku. Laura K. TaylorJocelyn DautelRisa RylanderAna Tomovska Misoska, from the HelpingKids! team co-authored the study on which this article reports. Published on Prishtina Insight.

How and When do Children Understand Conflict-Related Groups

Over 350 million children live in conflict-affected areas. Those born after peace agreements, or in the ‘post-accord generation,’ however, are still socialised in settings of protracted conflict. Symbols are often key identifying markers of the conflicting groups. However, children are not passive receivers of these messages and markers. Their behaviour, even at an early age, has implications for improving intergroup relations and future peacebuilding. Our work at the Helping Kids!lab examines children’s behaviour in protracted conflict-related contexts. Specifically, we study how ethnic awareness develops in children, and the implications this has for ethnic prejudice and prosocial behaviours in divided societies. Working with majority and minority group children in three post-accord generations, we aim to identify antecedents of children’s peacebuilding.

Helping Kids! conducted a comparative research project in three settings of protracted conflict: Northern Ireland (NI), Kosovo and Macedonia. Although the overt conflict of each setting has officially ended, it has left a lasting effect on post-accord generations. In each area, the two primary conflict-related groups have remained notably segregated across neighbourhoods and schools. Working with children from five to eleven years old, Helping Kids! explored children’s comprehension of and preference for conflict-related images and names. Understanding these outcomes of conflict can help research-based reconciliation and peacebuilding, eventually leading to a more cohesive society.

All three sites have education systems where children attend schools based on their ethnic background (Northern Ireland: Protestant /British, Catholic/Irish; Kosovo: Albanian, Serbian; Macedonia: Macedonian, Albanian). Eleven primary schools from Northern Ireland participated including 529 students (263 male, 266 female), with ages ranging from 5 to 11 (M = 7.8, SD = 1.76; 46.4% Protestant, 53.6% Catholic). Four primary schools from Kosovo participated for a total of 219 children (108 male, 111 female), ranging in age from 6 to 10 (M= 8.07, SD = 1.33) and evenly split by background (54.3% Albanian, 45.7% Serbian). Finally, two primary schools from Macedonia participated; a total of 199 students (107 male, 92 female) ranging in age from 6 to 11 (= 8.40, SD = 1.41were evenly split by background (44.2% Macedonian, 55.8% Albanian).

Our trained researchers visited primary schools and played child-friendly games on a laptop or tablet. We asked children about their recognition of and preference for images, symbols and names associated with each background in that context. Our games also explored children’s contact with, attitudes about and potential helping behaviours toward outgroup children.

Across all three settings, children readily recognized the social cues associated with conflict-related groups. For instance, in Northern Ireland children identified poppies as British and shamrocks as Irish; in Kosovo, children consistently categorised which murals and pop artists were Albanian or Serbian; and in Macedonia, children distinguished between various celebratory foods as Macedonian or Albanian.

Specifically, in Northern Ireland, the current study extends previous research in four ways. First, we extend the age group previously studied (3–2 years old). Second, we not only examine awareness of and preference for conflict-related groups, but also the subsequent impact on children’s attitudes and behaviours. Third, in this context, labels of Catholic and Protestant refer to ethno-political groups, rather than religious categories, while British and Irish refer to national affiliations. Although these categories are highly overlapping, they are often investigated in isolation. We examined both allowing us to compare when these categories emerge. Finally, we developed and designed a series of quantitative, child-friendly tasks that are easily adaptable to other conflict-affected societies. The games include a series of conflict-related group symbols (e.g., neighborhood markers and flags, athletics and activities, and community and religion) that are associated with both national (British/Irish) and ethno-political (Protestant/Catholic) labels.

In Northern Ireland, we found that national labels seem to emerge earlier (ages 5–8) than ethno-political labels (ages 9–11). For example, older children could readily sort curb paintings and bunting with both sets of labels, but younger children were more likely to pair these with the national (British/Irish), compared to the ethno-political labels (Protestant/Catholic).

In Northern Ireland, we found that national labels seem to emerge earlier (ages 5–8) than ethno-political labels (ages 9–11). For example, older children could readily sort curb paintings and bunting with both sets of labels, but younger children were more likely to pair these with the national (British/Irish), compared to the ethno-political labels (Protestant/Catholic).

Methodologically, our findings can also inform future research. That is, our tools and methods distinguish which specific symbols are more recognized and associated with the different categories (other than just through chance). These specific symbols, therefore, could be used as subtle markers for vignettes, stories, and other subtle ways in future research. For example, the same photo of a child could be used, but wearing one football jersey or another (e.g., Celtic/Rangers), as a way to manipulate social group, but control for all other aspects of the target child. This approach is important in a setting where the two salient, conflict-related groups are not visually distinct.

More broadly, across all three settings, our findings support the phases of Social Identity Development Theory (SIDT). The more aware children were of conflict-related group markers as belonging to one group, and not the other, the more children preferred their own groups’ symbols. That is, children with higher awareness of group symbols also expressed greater preference for ingroup images. This finding supports the link from ethnic awareness to preference.

Children’s understanding of conflict-related groups, for example, had behavioural implications even at early ages. Children who preferred in-group symbols shared fewer resources (e.g., stickers) with outgroup children. Those who had more negative attitudes about hypothetical outgroup members also shared less. These findings support the link from ethnic preference to prejudice.

Children’s positive experiences, however, seem to counteract these patterns. Children who reported more positive experiences with and attitudes about outgroup children, shared more resources with an outgroup child.

Previous work in Northern Ireland has identified similar patterns. Children from segregated neighbourhoods in Belfast distributed more resources to ingroup members, especially when they held a strong ingroup identity. Yet, youth in Belfast who had more quality and quantity contact with outgroup members had higher peacebuilding attitudes and civic engagement.

Complementing these findings, Helping Kids! continues to identify the antecedents of children’s peacebuilding in divided societies. We found that children know about and have preferences for social cues related to conflict-related groups. This knowledge and preference influences how resources are shared with others, an important first step in peacebuilding. Fostering more positive outgroup attitudes and opportunities for outgroup helping may have promising, long-term implications for more constructive intergroup relations.

Currently, we are working with local stakeholders in Kosovo and Macedonia to share our findings to influence local and national education policymakers and practitioners. Through discussions with families, school teachers and administrators, non-governmental organisations, and government officials, we are working to refine our findings to have an impact on the lives of children. Through these ongoing efforts, we hope that our findings can inform public policies that help children living in conflict-affected areas across the globe.

This phase of the Helping Kids! project was funded by the Department for the Economy (DfE) — Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) Awards [DFEGCRF17–18/Taylor and GCRF-GIAA18–19/Taylor] and the School of Psychology, Queen’s University Belfast, Research Incentivisation Scheme (RIS).

Post by Laura K. TaylorJocelyn DautelRisa RylanderAna Tomovska Misoska, and Edona Maloku.
Published on the ISPP Blog.




Who am I? Who are you?

­ Growing up in Divided Societies: Children’s Understanding of Conflict-related Group Symbols

Kids’ understanding of social categories has implications for conflict resolution. How and when children recognize names, symbols and social cues influences how they understand and identify with relevant social groups. How they identify with one group also affects their attitudes and behaviours toward ‘others.’ This effect can be even stronger in settings with a long history of conflict.

Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Macedonia, for example are rooted in a history of conflict. The two dominant social groups in each setting have remained notably segregated across neighbourhoods and schools. Although the overt conflict has ended, it has left a lasting effect on post-accord generations. Understanding these effects can help research-based reconciliation and peace-building projects. In the long-term, this can build a healthy and cohesive society.

The Helping Kids! project explored how children from five to eleven years old in Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Macedonia perceive prevalent social cues – such as names or icons – associated with conflict-related groups. Across all three settings, children readily recognized cues belonging to conflict-related categories. This recognition increased with age. For example, in Northern Ireland, children identified the poppy as belonging to the Protestant/British community, while the shamrock represented the Catholic/Irish community; in Macedonia, children distinguished between celebratory foods as Macedonian or Albanian; and in Kosovo, children recognized various murals and pop artists as either Albanian or Serbian.
Conflict-related group symbols in Northern Ireland and Kosovo.
The more aware children were of conflict-related group markers, the more they preferred their own groups’ symbols; those who preferring in-group symbols also shared fewer resources (e.g., stickers) with the outgroup. Thus, the way children thought about conflict-related groups had behavioural implications even at early ages. The bright side is that children’s previous experience seems to counteract this pattern. If a child reported more positive experiences with outgroup children, he/she was more likely to share resources with the outgroup.

Previous work in Northern Ireland has identified similar patterns. Children from segregated neighbourhoods in Belfast distributed more resources to ingroup members, especially when they held a strong group identity. Moreover, youth in Belfast who had higher quality and quantity contact with outgroup members had higher peacebuilding attitudes and civic engagement.

From this we know that children know about and have preferences for social cues related to conflict-related groups. This knowledge and preference has influences how resources are shared with others,  an important first step in peacebuilding. Fostering more positive outgroup attitudes and opportunities for outgroup helping may have promising, long-term implications for more constructive intergroup relations.

The Helping Kids! lab is working to apply these findings in other contexts. As such, these findings may have implications for the 350 million children living in conflict-affected areas.
Post by Laura K. TaylorJocelyn DautelRisa RylanderAna Tomovska Misoska, and Edona Maloku.
Published on the Social Change Lab

*This phase of the Helping Kids! project was funded by the School of Psychology Research Incentivisation Scheme (RIS) and the Department for the Economy (DfE) – Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) Award [DFEGCRF17-18/Taylor].