Swedish Primary School Pupils' Inter-ethnic Relationships

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The aim of the Swedish educational policy is educational participation and academic achieivement for all children, irrespective of ethnic background. Majority language instruction is an important tool used to achieve this goal. We argue that taking lessons in Swedish-as-a-second-language (S2) sets children apart in their class and limits their possibilities to interact with Swedish children and the immigrant children, who do not receive S2-lessons. In accordance with the contact hypothesis, we assumed that this limitation would have a negative impact on peer evaluation of these pupils' social competence. 394 children in ethnically mixed classes (grades 4-6) participated in the study reported in this article. As hypothesized, S2-children's sociability was evaluated significantly lower than that of Swedish children. Immigrant children, who do not have S2-lessions, do not have significantly lower scores. These findings were confirmed, using teachers' evaluations of children's social competence, or, perhaps, the organizational consequences of extra language lessons plays a role in children's assessments of peer competence.


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Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Psychology


  • Sweden, elementary school, immigrant children, social competence, language proficiency
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-228
JournalScandinavian Journal of Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1999
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes