Flags are conceptual representations that can prime nationalism and allegiance to one’s group. Investigating children’s understanding of conflict-related ethno-national flags in divided societies sheds light on the development of national categories. We explored the development of children’s awareness of, and preferences for, ethno-national flags in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, and the Republic of North Macedonia. Children displayed early categorization of, and ingroup preferences for, ethno-national flags. By middle-childhood, children’s conflict-related social categories shaped systematic predictions about other’s group-based preferences for flags. Children of minority-status groups demonstrated more accurate flag categorization and were more likely to accurately infer others’ flag preferences. While most Balkan children preferred divided versus integrated ethno-national symbols, children in the Albanian majority group in Kosovo demonstrated preferences for the new supra-ethnic national flag. We discuss the implications of children’s ethno-national flag categories on developing conceptualizations of nationality and the potential for shared national symbols to promote peace.

Publication Date



This is the accepted version of the article, the final, published version of this paper can be found here: https://doi.org/10.1163/15685373-12340090

Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

Applied Arts and Science (SOIS)


RIT Kosovo