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Survey indicates strong anti-Roma sentiment among Czech children
29-05-2013  Jan Richter

Around one-third of Czech 12- and 15-year-old children say they would never have a Roma friend, while 40 percent of them would take part in an anti-Roma rally in their town. These are some of the findings of a survey conducted among more than 1,400 elementary school pupils in the Czech Republic. The study also found a strong emphasis on conformity, says one of its authors Štepán Pudlák from Scio, a Prague-based educational think tank.

Photo: Filip Jandourek “One of the findings was that conformity really makes a difference for children when considering which peer they choose to befriend or, for example, who they would sit next to at school.”

How important was ethnicity in the results? You were also asking about children’s attitudes towards Roma, so how important was this aspect?

“It does play a role. The skin colour and ethnicity is part of being different from the group, from the conformity standards. Roma especially are an important issue for school children. We found that some 30 percent of the pupils said they would never be friends with a Roma.”

There have been many surveys among Czech adults about their views of the Roma minority as well as foreigners, and most of them found the levels of negative attitudes to these groups were higher. So how do your results reflect the attitudes of Czech adults?

“The numbers are more or less similar but it depends very much on how you ask and how the research is done. So I wouldn’t jump to conclusions here. But it seems to us the numbers are very similar so the attitudes of children and adults to Roma for example are similar. That’s not so unexpected because the attitudes are passed on from parents to their children, so it makes sense.”

Photo: Vojtěch Berger I suppose any group of children or any children’s collective puts an emphasis on conformity. Are the findings surprising for you in any way?

“Some aspects of the study were surprising, but some things you can suspect; for example, the issue of conformity. Every culture and every community has a strong tendency towards conformity with the group, where every extraordinariness gets punished.

“But the survey is only a beginning and if we want to interpret the topic, it’s important to ask how the shift from conformity among children is punished. If it results in bullying or if it’s just a matter of a different attitude which we believe is part of every society.”

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