Cohesion through participation? Youth engagement, interethnic attitudes, and pathways of positive and negative intergroup contact among adolescents: A quasi-experimental field study
The paper explores how youth engagement (i.e. organised socialparticipation in a group, club, or activity) can impact young people’s interethnic attitudes, via pathways of positive andnegative interethnic contact. To do so, it examines processes of interethnic cohesion occurring on a large-scale, nationally implemented UK youth engagement scheme. Employing a quasiexperimentalapproach, using pre-test/post-test data on a sampleof participants and a (propensity-score matched) control-group, analyses demonstrate that participation leads to positive changesin young people’s interethnic attitudes, evident at least 4–6 months after participation ended. This improvement in attitudes is driven primarily by increases in young people’s positive interethnic contact, while participation has no impact on young people’s levels of negative interethnic contact. However, theimpact of participation on interethnic attitudes depends on how much positive contact young people had prior to taking part: young people who joined the scheme with less frequent positivecontact see substantially larger improvements in their levels ofpositive contact which, in turn, drives even greater improvementsin their interethnic attitudes. These findings provide encouragingevidence that sites of youth engagement, especially nationalengagement schemes, can foster intergroup cohesion among adolescents; especially among those with less frequent positive contact in their daily lives.