Cultural Diversity Approaches in Schools and Adolescents’ Willingness to Support Refugee Youth


Tuğçe Aral, University of Potsdam, Germany
Maja Katharina Schachner, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany
Linda Juang, University of Potsdam, Germany
Miriam Schwarzenthal, University of Wuppertal, Germany


Culturally diverse schools contribute to adolescents’ intergroup relations. Complex and inclusive social identities are mechanisms that can explain the link between structural school cultural diversity (i.e., proportion of students of immigrant descent and the number of different ethnic groups) and positive intergroup relations. We expected that similar mechanisms might be at play linking cultural diversity approaches in schools with adolescents’ intergroup relations. Therefore, we examined the link between two sub-dimensions of cultural diversity approaches (i.e., equal treatment; heritage and intercultural learning) and adolescents’ prosocial intentions and behaviour towards refugee youth. Then, we explored the mediating role of identity inclusiveness (i.e., perceived similarity of the self with others).


We used cross-sectional data from 503 8th graders (i.e., second year of secondary school) recruited from 54 classrooms in Germany.  Of the adolescents in the sample, 50.6% were female, 30.7% had no immigrant descent (Mage= 13.67, SD =.73, 42.2 % female), 3.2 % werefirst generation immigrants (Mage= 14.43, SD =.73, 50.0 % female), and 68.9% were second and third generation immigrants (Mage= 13.72, SD =. 70, 54.5% female). Adolescents’ backgrounds included Turkish (20.9%), Arab (15.9%), Eastern European (14.7%), and mixture of different heritage groups (e.g., African, Asian descent, 10.1%). Adolescents were given 90 minutes to complete questionnaires presented in German. The questionnaires comprised of scales measuring two subscales of classroom cultural diversity climate (i.e., equal treatment; heritage and intercultural learning; Schachner et al., 2021), a self-developed prosocial intentions scale and a self-developed donation task measuring age-appropriate prosocial behaviour (based on Kunst, Thomsen, Sam, & Berry, 2015). A single pictorial item with circles in a row measured identity inclusiveness between the self and refugee youth (based on Aron et al.’s, 1992; Schubert & Otten, 2002). We used multilevel modelling approach to test our hypotheses.


Multilevel models revealed that adolescents’ perception of heritage and intercultural learning predicted their prosocial intentions toward refugee youth, but not their willingness to donate. Equal treatment was not a significant predictor of adolescents’ prosocial intentions toward refugee youth, or their willingness to donate. Identity inclusiveness did not mediate the relation between cultural diversity approaches and prosocial intentions. However, identity inclusiveness did positively relate adolescents’ prosocial intentions and willingness to donate.


This study provides insights into the role of classroom climate approaches in adolescents’ prosocial intention and behaviour towards refugee youth. The findings show that incorporating students` knowledge of their heritage cultures into classwork and discussing various perspectives of people from different cultures relates to local adolescents’ prosocial intentions toward refugee youth. These findings support heritage and intercultural learning as one potential strategy to create a positive environment that supports refugee youth in schools. Given the positive association of identity inclusiveness to prosocial intentions and behaviours, understanding how adolescents develop constructions of “them” to become “us” will continue to be important for schools.


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