Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 132–144 | Cite as

Ethnic Identity in Diverse Schools: Preadolescents’ Private Regard and Introjection in relation to Classroom Norms and Composition

  • Nadya Gharaei
  • Jochem ThijsEmail author
  • Maykel VerkuytenEmail author
Empirical Research


Ethnic identity plays a key role in the normative development of children and adolescents, and efforts to provide a positive and safe environment for ethnic identity benefit from an understanding of its context-dependency. Following the social identity perspective, we add to research on ethnic identity by considering the role of the classroom context and by conceptualizing ethnic identity in terms of two key dimensions. Specifically, the present study aims to investigate the role of the classroom context for ethnic private regard (positive ethnic self-feelings) and for the under-researched construct of ethnic introjection (subjective self-group merging). These two dimensions of ethnic identity were examined in 51 Dutch school classes among grade 4–6 students (N= 573; Mage = 10.77, SD = 1.02; 54% girls) of Dutch, Turkish and Moroccan ethnic background. We focused on teachers’ multicultural norms and classmates’ evaluation of the ethnic in-group (peer group norms) in combination with the ethnic class composition. It was found that ethnic introjection was empirically distinct from ethnic private regard, and that the former dimension depended on the classroom context more than the latter. Multicultural teacher norms affected minority preadolescents’ private regard positively, but only when the share of in-group classmates was low. Positive peer group norms of in-group classmates strengthened students’ introjection, while those of out-group classmates lowered it. The findings indicate that ethnic identity research will be enhanced by more fully considering the conceptual and contextual implications of the social identity perspective.


Class composition Ethnic introjection Ethnic private regard Multicultural education Peer norms Teacher norms. 


Authors' Contributions

All authors developed the study concept, participated in its design and were involved in drafting the manuscript. N.G. performed the statistical analysis and wrote the first full drafts of the manuscript; J.T. supervised the data collection, participated in the statistical analysis, and provided input on the drafts; M.V. re-worked the theoretical introduction and parts of the discussion. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This research was made possible by the Young Scholars’ Research Grant received from the Jacobs Foundation by the second author.

Data Sharing and Declaration

The dataset generated and the analysis of the current study are not publicly available but are deposited at the safe storage facility of the University and they are available from the second author on request.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Passive parental consent was obtained, and all students included in the study participated voluntarily.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Social and Cultural PsychologyUniversity of LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Ercomer, Department of Interdisciplinary Social ScienceUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

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