On the development of xenophobia in Germany: The adolescent years

Klaus Boehnke*, John Hagan, Gerd Hefler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Xenophobia is a widespread phenomenon around the world. Xenophobic incidents occurring in Germany, however, have always drawn high media attention for obvious historical reasons. The current article elaborates on the development of xenophobia among German adolescents in the 1990s. Using survey data from a large, ongoing longitudinal study of youth from East and West Berlin, trends of change in adolescent xenophobia are analyzed. Two main hypotheses are tested, namely that the subterranean value orientation of market-oriented economies, here called hierarchic self-interest, and low self-esteem are the driving forces behind xenophobia among 13- to 16-year-olds. In a two-wave cross-sectional study and a two-cohort longitudinal study, it is shown that individual preferences for hierarchic self-interest are indeed a powerful predictor of levels of xenophobia, though not of change, in the adolescent years under scrutiny. Admitting to a low self-esteem had an effect opposite to the one hypothesized. Those youth most willing to describe themselves as doubtful about their self were the ones with the lowest level and the least increase of xenophobia during the adolescent years. Context variables, like living in East as opposed to West Berlin or being on a disadvantaged school track, had a xenophobia-enhancing effect over and above hierarchic self-interest and self-esteem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)585-602
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Social Issues
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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