Ethnic habitus and young children: a case study of Northern Ireland

Paul Connolly, Berni Kelly, Alan Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


This article presents the findings of an exploratory survey of the ethnic attitudes and identities of a random sample (n=352) of 3-6 year old children in Northern Ireland. The survey represents one of the first of its kind to explore how young children’s awareness of ethnic differences develop in contexts where ethnicity is not marked by visible, physical differences. In drawing upon the notion of an ‘ethnic habitus’, the article shows how young children from the two majority ethno-religious groups in the region – Catholic and Protestants – are already acquiring the cultural dispositions and habits of their respective groups even though, at the earlier ages, they have little awareness or understanding of what these dispositions represent. The article shows that young children are capable of developing ethnic identities and prejudices in the absence of physical cues and discusses the implications of these findings for understanding the effects of racial and ethnic divisions on young children in other social contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-232
JournalEuropean Early Childhood Education Research Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2009

Bibliographical note

The EECERJ, the Journal of EECERA, is one of the most prestigious early childhood journals in the world. It is one of only four early years journals indexed by the Institute for Scientific Information. The ISI is highly selective of the journals in the citation databases and indices it maintains. EECERJ is located in the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI). EECERJ is peer reviewed, scholarly and is particular interested in research which has application. Abstracts are in English, French and German.

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  • ethnicity
  • habitus
  • young children
  • early childhood
  • Northern Ireland
  • conflict


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