Nordidactica: Journal of Humanities and Social Science Education (Aug 2015)

Frendship, diversity and fear: young people’s life views and life values in a multicultural society

  • Gunnar J. Gunnarsson,
  • Gunnar E. Finnbogason,
  • Hanna Ragnarsdóttir ,
  • Halla Jónsdóttir

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 2015, no. 2015:2
pp. 94 – 113


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This article introduces initial findings from a study on young people‘s (18 years and older) life views and life values in Iceland. The research project is located within a broad theoretical framework and uses interdisciplinary approaches of religious education, multicultural studies and pedagogy. Methodological approaches are both quantitative and qualitative. The first part of the research is a survey which was conducted among altogether 904 students in seven upper secondary schools in the Reykjavík area and other areas of Iceland in 2011 and 2012. In addition to covering measures of background variables and religious affiliations, statements in the survey included themes such as views of life, self-understanding, relation to others, values and value judgments, religions, and diversity and social change. The article focuses especially on findings from the survey related to friendship, attitudes towards diversity, fear and insecurity in a multicultural society. The findings indicate that the participants generally have positive attitudes towards diversity. The majority of participants find it inspiring to have friends of different origins and find it important to respect different cultural and religious traditions. The majority of participants also have strong opinions against racism and bullying. Friends are important and most of the participants are of the opinion that friends are one of the things that provide security. At the same time only a minority is afraid of being unpopular, losing the confidence of their friends or being bullied. But when the fear is about disgracing oneself or about not being able to meet the requirements at school the proportion is higher. Although the economic crisis in Iceland seems to have an effect on the life of the young people answering the survey, most of them are of the opinion that the future holds a lot of opportunities. The results are useful for further discussions on young people´s life views, self-understanding, and social and moral competence, for example in school context and in connection with subjects like Social Studies, Religious Education, Life Skills Education and Intercultural Education.