Enhancing Peer Interactions and Social Capital (responsible expert: University of Sussex, UK)
The intervention builds on research undertaken by Watters and colleagues (2009) in schools in the UK that observed an integrationist attitude as positively associated with two psychosocial outcomes: self-esteem and peer acceptance. The findings provided strong support for Berry’s (1997) prediction that an acculturation attitude that combines both culture maintenance and intergroup contact will have the most favourable prognosis for well-being.
However, the research found that an integrationist outlook at one time point predicted a greater number of negative emotional symptoms suggesting that endorsing integration was something of a two-edged sword: it increased self-esteem and acceptance by peers, but also led to manifesting more negative emotional symptoms. The research indicated that the quest to be integrated, involving engagement alongside cultural maintenance may have consequences in terms of discriminatory behaviours.
In a study of educational achievement in Belgian secondary schools, it was found that an integrationist orientation was linked to academic success only for students who experienced relatively low levels of discrimination; for those reporting higher levels of discrimination, academic achievement was noticeably lower (Baysu, Phalet & Brown, 2011).
A helpful orientation towards examining intergroup interactions in this context is to focus on the generation of social capital, specifically the ways in which both bonding and bridging social capital is developed in schools. Previous research has demonstrated the close relationship between bridging social capital and an integrationist approach (Watters et al., 2009). This intervention provides an opportunity to examine strategies aimed at developing positive peer interactions and social support in the context of multi-ethnic schools.
It will be based initially in a school that has introduced refugee children in recent years and has been active in trying to support an integrative approach. The school will offer specific initiatives aimed towards enhancing students integration including classes aimed at appreciating cultural diversity and focussed on the `World on the Move’ that aims to enhance understanding of migratory processes.