Intergroup Contact and Reconciliation Among Liberian Refugees: A Multilevel Analysis in a Multiple Groups Setting

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Abstract

This research examined how direct and extended intergroup contact can promote reconciliation in the aftermath of the Liberian civil wars (N = 181 refugees). We measured intergroup contact and attitudes toward each of the 16 ethnic groups in Liberia, and used multilevel analyses to investigate the relation between contact and attitudes toward each outgroup, as well as the influence of overall intergroup contact on reconciliation. At the within-individual level, both direct and extended cross-group friendships predicted attitudes toward specific groups, regardless of participants’ overall levels of intergroup contact. At the between-individual level, intergroup contact was related to a more positive overall assessment of ethnic outgroups, which in turn was related to greater intergroup trust, empathy, and forgiveness. We also explored the role of traumatic war experiences in this process, showing that the within-individual relation between intergroup contact and attitudes is stronger for those more traumatized by the war, both for direct and extended cross-group friendships. These findings stress the importance of direct and extended intergroup contact in promoting reconciliation even after violent armed conflicts, and indeed especially for those that were more exposed to this violence.

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