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Dynamics of Development: Understanding Adolescents' Intergroup Attitudes, National Feelings, and Perception of Social Norms

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - DYNADE (Dynamics of Development: Understanding Adolescents' Intergroup Attitudes, National Feelings, and Perception of Social Norms)

Reporting period: 2016-06-01 to 2018-05-31

Understanding the causes of prejudice is one of the main goals of social psychology. Recently, the interest of researchers turned to the development of prejudice which is highly important for the early prevention of intergroup hostility. Most of these works focus on childhood and much less is known about the development of prejudice in adolescence even though it is a crucial period for the formation of the identity. For such developmental processes cross-sectional data can only give indications, though it is not sufficient for tracking the complex dynamics related to the process of crystallization of attitudes.
In Hungary, prejudices towards minority groups as Roma and Jews are wide-spread among the population and, according to recent surveys, there is no social consensus regarding the non-acceptance of prejudices in the public. Most of the recent studies on prejudices and their development were carried out in western European countries and the United States, where social norms clearly proscribe prejudices and racism, thus Hungary is a unique setting for the investigation of the interplay of group norms and national feelings in the process of prejudice development. Furthermore, here there is a great need for efficient intervention against prejudice development in schools as this is not regularly part of the curriculum.
This project is a research of the development of intergroup attitudes in adolescence based on a two-wave panel study focusing on the interplay of individual and contextual factors in the development of intergroup attitudes. Besides their scientific value, results of the project are also used to formulate recommendations for teachers to prevent the spread of prejudice among secondary school students.
The objective of the proposed research was twofold. On the one hand, its aim was to investigate the process of the development of prejudices towards minority groups among Hungarian teenagers by collecting original longitudinal data enabling novel causal inferences. At the same time, results of the research were to be used to make recommendations for teachers to prevent the spread of prejudice.

Objective 1. Investigation of the development of prejudice towards minority groups among among Hungarian teenagers by collecting original longitudinal data.
This objective has been reached as during the first year of the project a questionnaire to measure adolescents’ intergroup attitudes was developed and pretested and the research team collect data from 1400 Hungarian secondary students in the ninth grade at two time points. The data was then merged, cleaned, and analysed. Main findings support the initial hypotheses:
1. Students' intergroup attitudes become similar to those of their classmates during the first year in secondary school. This finding underlines the importance of the school class for the formation of intergroup attitudes.
2. Perceived norms in the class guide adolescents' prejudice as they adjust their attitudes to what they perceive to be the dominant norm in their school class.
3. New outgroup contacts (from different ethnic groups) prevent the increase in the level of anti-Roma prejudice.
4. Students misperceive the norms in their class to be accepting of anti-Roma remarks, which leads to the acceptance of these remarks by the end of the year.
5. The effect of teachers' perceived attitudes is moderated to those perceived among classmates. Thus, teachers can do most for the prevention of the spread of prejudice by creating a class climate in which norms that do not accept prejudice are visible.

Objective 2. Recommendations for the prevention of the spread of prejudice
This objective has been reached and even expanded. First, as planned, a set of practical and feasible suggestions for secondary school teachers based on the findings of the research have been formulated. A workshop for secondary school teachers took place where we have discussed the findings and the suggestions. An inventory for teachers listing a wide range of possibilities for in-school prejudice reduction has also been prepared to meet the needs of the teachers. All these materials along with further publications related to the study have been made available on a bilingual website in English and Hungarian language.
Furthermore,the researcher has been invited to join the team of the University of Applied Sciences in Niederrhein in the framework of the EU-funded CHAMPIONS project to work on the development of a website that informs teachers and other first-line practitioners on issues related to the countering of radicalisation, polarisation, and everyday prejudice among young people. Here, findings of the research can be directly applied and reach audiences beyond Hungary, across whole Europe.
Results of the study and recommendations for teachers regarding the prevention of the spread of prejudice have reached a very broad audience thanks to an interview published on the most-read online news portal. Parallel to this, different NGOs use results of the study for their intervention programs against prejudice. Thus, the potential for impact is in Hungary is high, and thanks to the involvement with CHAMPIONS project a larger geographic scope is foreseen.
Portrait of the beneficiary researcher, Dr. Luca Varadi