Shock report shows sectarianism amongst kids

By the age of three, Catholic children are already twice as likely to say they don’t like the police compared to Protestant children according to the findings of a new report.

The report also finds that by the age of six, a third of children are already identifying with one of the two main communities and just under one in six are making sectarian statements.

The revelations emerge from a major University of Ulster research report published on Tuesday June 25, which was funded by the Community Relations Council in association with Channel 4 Television.

The report, called ‘Too Young to Notice? The Cultural and Political Awareness of 3-6 Year Olds in Northern Ireland’, is the first ever in-depth study of the attitudes and prejudices of pre-school children. Written by Dr Paul Connolly, Professor Alan Smith and Berni Kelly, it is based upon data from interviews with a representative sample of 352 children drawn from across Northern Ireland.

Dr Connolly said the report “certainly raises important questions about the indirect effects that our segregated school system is having on the development of young children's attitudes and awareness”.

Overall, just over half (51%) of all three years olds were able to demonstrate some awareness of the cultural/political significance of at least one event or symbol. This rose to 90% of six-year-olds quizzed.

The report further illustrates that Protestant children were twice as likely than their Catholic peers to prefer the Union Jack than the Irish Tricolour flag.

Catholic three year olds were again nearly twice as likely to say that they didn't like Orange Marches compared to Protestant three year olds.

Dr Connolly said: "In some ways, the fact that the family and local community have an influence on the attitudes of young children is obvious – especially when we consider events such as those surrounding the Holy Cross Primary School.

“However it does highlight the fact that we cannot simply expect schools to solve the problem alone. Unless we can develop community relations strategies with children that also include the family and local community then they are going to be of very limited success."

He added: “As regards the role and influence of the school, the most significant finding from the study is the rapid rate of increase in the proportions of children beginning to identify themselves with one particular community and also to make sectarian comments at the ages of five and six. The fact that these represent the first few years of compulsory schooling is unlikely to be a coincidence.”

Children demonstrated the greatest awareness of the cultural/political significance of parades (49% of the sample), flags (38%) and Irish dancing (31%). One in five (21%) were able to demonstrate awareness of football shirts and of the violence associated with the conflict more generally.


Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

26 September 2001
Report reveals 2,000 NI children run away each year
According to a new social report more than 2,000 children under the age of 16 run away from home in Northern Ireland. The “Lost Youth” survey, carried out by charity Extern across the UK also reveals that more than a third of children who run away from home sleep rough.
05 September 2003
Children from mixed backgrounds need better support
Children with mixed-community backgrounds in Northern Ireland have specific needs which are not being met. According to a report by the National Children’s Bureau, at least 17% of children in public care in Northern Ireland are from cross-community families, compared to just 6% of cross-community relationships in the population as a whole.
27 June 2001
NORTHERN Ireland Assembly members unanimously passed a recommendation to nominate a commissioner for children that would protect and defend the rights of vulnerable young people. The intention to appoint a children’s commissioner was first announced by the First and deputy First Minister in January this year.
10 January 2007
Children's commissioner expresses concern over potential risk to children
The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley, is extremely worried at the potential risk to children if high risk sex offenders are returned to Northern Ireland after committing crimes abroad.
10 September 2014
Work-Related Deaths Drop Almost 50%
The number of work-related deaths in Northern Ireland has dropped by almost a half, according to the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI), but the body maintains there is no room for complacency.
25 February 2014
NI School Absence Levels 'Disturbing'
A report has found that 20,000 pupils in Northern Ireland missed the equivalent of six weeks of school in 2011/12. The figure is double that of children who miss lessons in England, according to the Northern Ireland Audit Office.
28 June 2007
Education Minister targets school bullying
Education Minister Caitríona Ruane has spoke today of the dangers that bullying in schools poses to society, following the publication of a new report Ms Ruane was speaking as she received a research report into the nature and extent of bullying within our schools, undertaken by the University of Ulster.
08 June 2006
Call made for school transport safety review
The NI Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY) in partnership with the Consumer Council, has today called for immediate action to bring to an end the hazardous journeys to and from school, faced by many children and young people.
16 September 2002
McGuinness pledges action over disabled children's rights
Education Minister Martin McGuinness has pledged "take action" over discrimination against school children with disabilities, following the launch of a Barnardo's report on the issue.
11 November 2014
Mother And Children Hit By Car
A mother and her six children have been hit by a car while walking to school in Cloughmills, County Antrim. The group was on the Loughill Road just after 08:30 when the incident occurred. The woman and three children were taken to hospital. It is reported that the mother is in a serious condition and that one child is in a very serious condition.
24 September 2012
Inquiry Hears Of Child Deaths In Local Hosptials
The deaths of five children while in hospital are being investigated as part of a public inquiry. The parents of nine-year-old Claire Roberts, who died in hospital in 1996, wept as details of her death were read out. The hearing was told that Claire was overdosed with medication and excess fluids.
20 July 2012
Children Find Firearm In Antrim
A group of children have found a shotgun in Antrim. The shotgun was discovered in a lane at the back of Fernwood Park on Thursday afternoon at around 3.25pm. The children informed an adult, who then contacted the police. PSNI and ATO attended the scene and took the gun away for further examination.
27 October 2010
Westlife To Enliven BBC Children In Need
The BBC Children in Need gig at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast next month will feature Irish-bred former 'boy band' Westlife as well as The Script. Both pop groups will be flying into Belfast to perform at this year's massive event, which the BBC will broadcast on the big night, Friday 19 November.
15 November 2007
Omagh Suspect Died In Blaze
Police are treating one of the victims of the Omagh fire tragedy as a prime suspect. Arthur McElhill is suspected of setting the fire that killed him, his partner and their five children. He died with Lorraine McGovern, and their children, Caroline, Sean, Bellina, Clodagh and James in a fire at Lammy Crescent on Tuesday.
19 April 2005
'What makes children laugh?' UU researcher asks
A University of Ulster researcher is hoping to unravel the puzzle into what makes children laugh.