Surveys, studies and reports examined by Reva Klein
Poorly-conceived schemes to bring together Catholic and Protestant children deepen their prejudices.
So says Ulster University researcher Dr Paul Connolly in a paper on sectarianism. He argues that well-meaning attempts to break down the Northern Ireland divide may inadvertently reinforce conflict if there is no preparatory work first.
Schemes that are badly thought-out fail to acknowledge the children's suffering and personal tragedy. Preparatory work must involve critical discussion about the views of their peers, and must be led by a youth leader skilled in anti-sectarian work, he argues.
Dr Connolly's study draws on data from 30 group interviews with children from a Catholic and a Protestant primary school in two violent, neighbouring districts.
He looks in much more depth at the pre-existing divisions than at the actual schemes, and portrays a picture of young children already well-entrenched in their prejudices against the other community.
He argues for more work with young children on prejudices, fears and anxieties in the context of sectarianism, and also calls for more research into the efficacy of cross-community contact schemes.
Sectarianism, Children and Cross-Community Contact Schemes: A Study of 10 and 11-Year-Old Children's Perspectives in Northern Ireland, by Dr Paul Connolly, School of Social and Community Sciences, Ulster University, Magee College, Northland Road, Derry BT48 7JL.