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Research has suggested that intergroup contact can ironically lead to a reduction in commitment to social change and that threat can play an important role in this process. In post-agreement societies, however, characterized more so by symbolic rather than material conflict, the role that intergroup contact and threat play in social action may be particularly complex. This article examines intergroup contact, intergroup threat, support for political violence, and political participation among a student sample (n = 152) of Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. Results show that contact is associated with lower symbolic and realistic threat for both groups and to lower levels of support for political violence but not to political participation. Symbolic threat mediated the association between contact and support for political violence and between contact and political participation for the Protestant majority group only. This suggests that contact may have a positive effect upon group relations but that this is dependent upon status and the social-political context.

Original publication




Journal article


Group Dynamics

Publication Date





234 - 244