Social change and intergroup preferences in New Zealand



Twelve hundred Maori and Pakeha (White, European) children in New Zealand ranging from five to twelve years of age, have been tested for intergroup preferences in a series of studies. These investigations spanned the years 1961–1970, and were conducted in four different regions, Previous analysis of these results had concentrated on the ontogeny of ethnic awareness and attitude development, and has not succeeded in relating distinct regional differences to population characteristics such as density or contact rate. The present study re-examines available data, following Tajfe's recent theoretical developments relating social identity to the process of social change, Two judges independently rated the four New Zealand regions in question in terms of perceived status relationships between Maori and Pakeha, ranging from relatively static to relatively fluid. Both resorted to two major variables in the judging: rural versus urban, and year of study. Inter-judge agreement for ratings was total across the four regions. The resulting dimension was conceived as one which could reflect a restructuring of intergroup choices as a consequence of social change. It was found that Maori children have shown a clear shift away from out-group preference as a function of urbanism and of time. While the rural context may have offered a form of security via a more ‘classical’ Maori identity, the collapse of this system in an urban context reveals Maori/Pakeha social inequity for what it is, particularly in the eyes of older children. This trend has been accelerated in the seventies by a knowledge of minority group assertions elsewhere, particularly in the United States. There is some evidence of a shift in Pakeha behaviour too. Blatant in-group preference has diminished as a facet of social change, though Pakehas could retrench if a militant pattern appeared in Maori behaviour.