When Dual Identity Claims are Accepted in Schools: Long Term Effects

MAY 17, 2018 | 4:30 PM TO 6:30 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue




May 17, 2018: 4:30 PM-6:30 PM




Advanced Research Collaborative (ARC)


ARC Seminar
Gülseli Baysu
Professor of Psychology, Queen’s Belfast University, Ireland

When Dual Identity Claims are Accepted in Schools: Long-term Effects on Minority Adjustment and Performance

Abstract: How do minority adolescents’ dual identity claims affect their school adjustment, belonging and performance in European societies? Minority students should feel more included and perform better when their dual identity claims are valued and accepted by their peers (Study 1), by way of school policies (Study 2) and by their teachers (Study 3). Study 1 in Belgium measured minority adolescents’ own (N = 681 in 50 schools) orientations towards minority and majority cultures and identities, and their co-ethnic (N = 681) and cross-ethnic peers’ norms (N = 1,930 other classmates): whether the peers think minorities should orient towards minority or majority cultures. Misfit of minorities’ own identity claims with both cross-ethnic and co-ethnic peer-group norms was harmful. When cross-ethnic norms stressed majority culture and identity, minority youth with dual identity had lower school adjustment. Yet, when co-ethnic peers stressed minority culture and identity, ‘assimilationist’ minority youth showed lower adjustment. Next, coding school policy documents for diversity approaches in Belgium showed that multiculturalism, colorblindness and assimilation were the most prevalent approaches. Then we investigated their impact longitudinally on school belonging and performance of majority (N=1384) and minority adolescents (N=1747) in 70 schools. Valuing dual identity claims, multiculturalism was beneficial across all students’ grades, and benefited minorities without harming majorities in terms of belonging; whereas assimilationism was harmful for minorities’ belonging. Colorblindness was harmful across all students’ grades, and belonging a year later. Finally, we looked at the role of teachers as diversity managers (study 3, N=179, M_age=12.29). In a high-diversity school in London, a dual-identity affirmation intervention (by valuing and affirming students’ dual identities) was tested in comparison to a standard self-affirmation condition (by affirming the core values of students as individuals), and to a ‘one-group’ condition (by valuing only the common national identity). Teachers implemented all the interventions in class and students’ test performance was the outcome measure. As expected, minority adolescents outperformed others when dual-identity was affirmed by the teachers.

In conclusion, two studies using representative longitudinal school surveys and one with an experimental design showed that when schools, teachers and peers communicate the value of cultural diversity, it creates an inclusive school environment that benefits minority students’ school adjustment, belonging and performance. This is all the more important in European societies where cultural diversity is devalued and increasingly criticized. I will talk about implications of these findings for the US context where hyphenated or dual identities are more accepted (than in Europe) yet at the same time educational inequalities persist harming the life chances of disadvantaged and devalued minorities.

Bio: Gülseli Baysu is an associate professor of social and political psychology at Kadir Has University, Turkey.  She is also an affiliated member of the Center for Social and Cultural Psychology at the University of Leuven. Her research interests focus on social psychology of cultural diversity, immigration and integration, educational success of immigrants (particularly of European Muslim immigrants), intergroup relations, identity processes and identity politics. She has recently published papers on how perceptions of equal treatment enhance achievement and belonging of Muslim minority adolescents in European schools (Child Development, 2016, 87-5, 1352-1366) and on the intersectionality of Muslim identity with political identities in the Gezi park protests of Turkey (Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 2017, 20-3, 350-366). During her ARC visit, she will conduct studies to analyze school achievement and belonging of Muslim minority youth longitudinally as a function of their positive and negative experiences of intergroup contact, particularly with majority peers and teachers, and she wants to add a comparative dimension by comparing Belgium with Germany and possibly with the US.