If you don’t like them by now – what makes you like them next year? Social-cognitive and social predictors of prejudice in school children in a two-wave longitudinal study
German society is becoming more ethnically diverse – almost every fifth person has an immigration background (Statistisches Bundesamt, 2007). Unprejudiced intergroup attitudes are important in diverse societies to prevent intergroup tensions and discrimination. Theories of prejudice acquisition and...
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|Zusammenfassung:||German society is becoming more ethnically diverse – almost every fifth person has an immigration background (Statistisches Bundesamt, 2007). Unprejudiced intergroup attitudes are important in diverse societies to prevent intergroup tensions and discrimination. Theories of prejudice acquisition and development assume that intergroup attitudes are formed during childhood and adolescence (Aboud, 1988; Bar-Tal & Teichman, 2005; Nesdale, 1999a). Therefore the present work studied potential factors of influence on prejudice in school children. Based on Social-Cognitive Developmental Theory, Social Identity Development Theory, and integrative models like the Integrative Model of the Formation of Stereotype and Prejudice, a model was suggested. This model includes factors of influence from the macro-social context and socialisation, as well as social and individual factors of influence. Four hypotheses were deduced from the theoretical model and relevant empirical studies which assumed that general cognitive developmental stage (H1a), social-cognitive abilities like empathic perspective taking or perceived intergroup similarity (H1b), descriptive social norms (H2a), friends’ intergroup attitudes (H2b), direct and indirect contact (H3a and b), and strength of ingroup identification (H4) affect intergroup attitudes. In addition, social-cognitive abilities are hypothesised to mediate the effects of general cognitive development on prejudice (H1c). In order to test these hypotheses, data were collected at 6 schools in 27 classes in 2005 and 2006. As the study focuses on German children’s attitudes toward immigrants, only the data of respondents without immigration background were used. There were 181 respondents without immigration background at time 1, 206 at time 2, and data could be matched for times 1 and 2 for 142 respondents. Analyses based on data-collection-2 data did not support hypothesis 1a) and 1c). The analyses did not show an effect of general cognitive developmental stage on prejudice. Empathic perspective taking significantly predicted lower prejudice even with other variables controlled for which is in line with hypothesis 1b) but does not allow conclusions about causal effects. Cross-lagged analyses did not support hypothesis 2a): there was no significant path from descriptive norm assessed at time 1 to prejudice at time 2. In line with hypotheses 2b) and 3b) the cross-sectional correlations between friends’ attitudes (positive) and indirect contact (negative) were significant. But neither friends’ attitudes nor indirect contact contributed significantly to the prediction of prejudice when other variables like direct contact were controlled for. Cross-lagged analyses supported hypotheses 3a) and 4): There was a significant negative path from direct contact at time 1 and a significant positive path from ingroup identification at time 1 to prejudice toward Turkish immigrants at time 2. The paths from the two assumed factors of influence assessed at time 1 to prejudice of immigrants at time 2 were marginally significant and in the expected direction. Additional results indicate bi-directional relations between direct contact and prejudice as well as between ingroup identification and prejudice. The search for possible mediators between the assumed factors of influence and prejudice only provided empirical support for the assumed mediating role of perceived intergroup similarity for the effect from ingroup identification on prejudice. Taken together the results advocate that programs meant to prevent or reduce prejudice in children can use approaches that foster intergroup contact and reduce the importance of ethnic ingroup membership.|