Academic journal article Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe : JEMIE

A Study of Perceived Parental Communication and Propensity towards Reconciliation among Youth in Vukovar (Croatia)

Academic journal article Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe : JEMIE

A Study of Perceived Parental Communication and Propensity towards Reconciliation among Youth in Vukovar (Croatia)

Article excerpt

This paper explores some socio-psychological factors that might be indicative of the willingness of young people to establish post-conflict intergroup relationships in the city of Vukovar in Croatia. It is based on a study involving 254 students (132 male and 122 female) from the University of Vukovar and high schools, who identified themselves with one of the two ethnic groups associated with the conflict in Croatia; Croats (N = 165) and Serbs (N = 89). Participants completed a questionnaire on perceived parental communication, styles of adolescent conflict management within the family, their sense of victimhood, and their propensity towards reconciliation with youth belonging to the out-group. As expected, results confirm that sense of victimhood, referring to the loss of or damage to one's house and to personal losses and threats to one's own life or to the lives of significant others, is associated with negative emotions towards youth belonging to the out-group and less propensity towards reconciliation. Moreover, results show that perceived constructive parental communication is associated with higher propensity towards reconciliation among youth belonging to the out-group. Interestingly, the results suggest that young people who perceived their parents using constructive and non-aggressive relational communication (versus those who are verbally aggressive) seem to have a greater propensity towards reconciliation even when the young people in question experienced a high sense of victimhood. The paper discusses the theoretical and practical implications of the findings for improving communication and enhancing understanding between groups in post-conflict areas.

Keywords: parental communication, adolescent conflict management, victimhood, reconciliation in post-conflict areas

1. Introduction

This study explores the role of some socio-psychological variables in the process of reconciliation among young people in the city of Vukovar in Croatia. It focuses on the effects of perceived parental communication on readiness for dialogue and reconciliation among young people. We assume a positive relationship between perceived constructive parental communication and young people's willingness to establish relationships with out-group members. The results of this study are discussed in terms of their theoretical and practical implications for improving communication between groups in post-conflict areas. The paper will first present a brief outline of the history of the conflict in Croatia and in the city of Vukovar (for a more detailed analysis see Banac, 2001; Gagnon, 2004; Ramet, 1996, 2005, 2009; Zunec, 1998).

1.1. Historical background of the conflict in Vukovar

As Yugoslavia began to break up in late 1980s and in early 1990s, Serbia's President Slobodan Milosevic and the newly elected President of Croatia Franjo Tuðman started to pursue nationalist politics. Tuðman's programme was opposed by Croatia's Serbian minority who saw it as a reincarnation of the nationalist-fascist Ustasha movement, which had massacred hundreds of thousands of Serbs during World War II (Zerjavic, 1992). When Croatia proclaimed independence from Yugoslavia after a referendum, Serbs in Croatia set up the self-declared Serb Republic of Krajina (Republika Srpska Krajina; RSK), with the support of the Serbian government and Serb paramilitary groups. The Croatian government rapidly lost control of one third of the Republic (Serb-inhabited inland rural regions, almost all of the Dalmatian coast, and much of central and eastern Croatia). Political elites on both sides, together with most of the mass media, started to strongly instigate interethnic tensions and fear (Thompson, 1995). Very soon, sporadic interethnic incidents began to happen, at the beginning mostly between Serb paramilitary formations and the Croatian police. At the same time, fear, a sense of insecurity and a lack of trust began to develop in communities that until then had lived peacefully side by side (Corkalo Biruski, 2012). …

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