Are diverse societies less cohesive? Advancing understandings of social cohesion

Abstract: As immigration rates continue to rise, ethnic diversity within communities is a central issue for political leaders and policy makers. The current research examines the relationship between social cohesion and ethnic diversity using two different samples of Australians. A sample of third generation, majority Anglo-Australians (n = 1,070) is used to test the contact, extended contact, and constrict theories. Using a diverse range of predictors, we explore whether increased ethnic diversity leads to uncertainty and conflict (e.g., Putnam, 2007) or opportunities for high quality intergroup interactions (e.g., Allport, 1952; Paluck & Green, 2009; Schmid, Ramiah & Hewstone, 2015). The findings provide limited support for constrict and conflict theory, as well as, some support for both contact and extended contact (through reducing perceived threat) theories. A nationally representative sample of Australians (n = 1,526) is used to identify factors that influence social cohesion and those that can be used to build strong, resilient, and connected communities. In this work, a wide range of demographic (i.e., ethnic diversity, rurality), political (i.e., income inequality, safety), and psychological (i.e., tolerance, inclusivity norms) factors are tested to determine which of these most strongly impacts on social cohesion. Results indicate that malleable factors, such as inclusivity norms and tolerance, are important predictors of social cohesion. For each set of findings, the theoretical and policy implications are outlined along with future directions for research.

Bio: Dr Kathleen Klik is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Research School of Psychology, The Australian National University. She was awarded her PhD from East Tennessee State University, USA for her research in intergroup relations and stigma. Her research takes a translational approach, bridging between different sub-disciplines of psychology. In particular, her research interests are situated at the interface of social, political, and clinical psychology examining social identity, mental illness stigma, and intergroup relations.

Date & time

4–5pm 19 September 2017


Peter Baume Building 42A Room 2.01


Dr Kathleen Klik

Updated:  24 October 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, RSP/Page Contact:  Web Admin, RSP