In the post-conflict societies of the Western Balkans (Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia) ethnic and religious identities continue to constitute a major source of tension. Knowing that the youth tend to be the bearer of the future societal values, we aimed to explore if young people in this region are able to construct their identities in a more inclusive way and overcome these divisive group identifications. We conducted a survey among 767 people aged 20 to 30, from Belgrade, Novi Pazar, Prishtina, North Mitrovica, Banja Luka, Sarajevo, Skopje and Tetovo. In each country, we selected one town with a dominant ethnic majority and one with a dominant ethnic minority. The survey was followed up with a qualitative study — eight focus groups and eight case studies. Higher inclusiveness and complexity in the construal of multiple ingroup social identities was reliably related to more favorable out-group attitudes. Those who experienced more diversity, e.g. members of groups that are an ethnic minority at local levels (in towns they live in) generally showed more liberal out-group and political attitudes. Likewise, the quantity and quality of intergroup contact effectively reduced unfavorable out-group attitudes in all the groups. Although the youth are still averse to the idea of political participation, their recognition of how the politics shape their identities and negative perceptions of others could be articulated as political attitudes. Despite the hardships, bridging social divides in the Western Balkans seems a viable goal, dependent upon empowering the youth, offering them more opportunities to communicate with each other and encouraging them in building more inclusive identities.

Publication Date



This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in Changing Youth Values in Southeast Europe:Beyond Ethnicity on Sept. 13, 2017, available online: https://www.routledge.com/Changing-Youth-Values-in-Southeast-Europe-Beyond-Ethnicity/Trost-Mandic/p/book/9781138086364

Document Type

Book Chapter

Department, Program, or Center

Psychology (CLA)


RIT Kosovo