Résumé : This thesis aims at analysing the attitudes of youngsters in Brussels towards sociological minorities. The term “minorities” is used to refer to the main social groups that suffer from subordination and misrecognition by the wider society according to the philosophical theory of recognition: women, lesbians and gay men, and ethnic minorities. Our dataset is composed of a sample of seventy schools in the Brussels Capital Region. In total, three thousand one hundred and twenty one pupils attending in 2007 the last grade of secondary education participated in the study. About half of the sample consists of pupils with a migrant background originating from about 100 different countries. This cultural diversity, reflecting one of the main characteristics of the population of the Brussels Capital Region, is at the centre of the thesis.

Because of the hierarchical structure of the sample (pupils aggregated within schools), the culturally diverse population of our sample and the multidimensionality of prejudice, multilevel multivariate linear responses models were performed. In brief, these models allowed us to interpret items regrouped according to their common variation across social (and ethnic) groups and not according to their a priori content similarities. Furthermore, these models allowed us to integrate three different research traditions on prejudice: social psychology on the dimensionality of prejudice, sociology on the impact of socio demographic characteristics on prejudice and school effectiveness research on the role schools may play in reducing pupils’ prejudice. With these models, we could demonstrate the capacity of multilevel techniques to encompass the complexity of prejudice and norms, and to provide an interdisciplinary approach of social processes.

Besides the impact of gender and socio economic differences on prejudice, the association between ethnic origin and prejudice was the focus of the analysis at the individual level. Hence, the empirical literature showed that respondents of foreign descent and respondents from the receiving society do not hold similar attitudes towards minorities. This association was investigated in a twofold strategy: after having assessed ethnic differences on the different kinds of prejudice, the explanatory power of possible mediators -such as the experience of group-level institutional discrimination or the bidimensional identification- on this association was tested. The choice of these mediators was influenced by different disciplines of the social sciences. Hence, besides the empirical literature specific to the topic of prejudice, these mediators are derived from theories of political sciences, of sociology of immigration, of social psychology and of cross-cultural psychology. The results showed that these mediators could indeed explain to a large extent ethnic differences on prejudice towards minorities.

On the school level, we have shown that the impact schools may have on pupils’ prejudice is a differentiated one. Hence, this impact varies according to both the targets and the dimensions of prejudice. Moreover, besides school institutional characteristics, several contextual characteristics were investigated such as the cultural and social diversity within a school. Our results showed that the impact on prejudice of social and cultural diversity within schools was non-significant. This is, however, most probably related to a masking effect by the specificities of the education landscape in Brussels: differences between schools are huge and homogeneity within schools is important, given that the educational field is highly segregated both in social and in cultural terms. The implications of these results based on an interdisciplinary approach for future research and for policymakers are discussed.