Social Identity and Youth Aggressive and Delinquent Behaviors in a Context of Political Violence

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Abstract

The goal of the current study was to examine the moderating role of in-group social identity on relations between youth exposure to sectarian antisocial behavior in the community and aggressive behaviors. Participants included 770 mother-child dyads living in interfaced neighborhoods of Belfast. Youth answered questions about aggressive and delinquent behaviors as well as the extent to which they targeted their behaviors toward members of the other group. Structural equation modeling results show that youth exposure to sectarian antisocial behavior is linked with increases in both general and sectarian aggression and delinquency over one year. Reflecting the positive and negative effects of social identity, in-group social identity moderated this link, strengthening the relationship between exposure to sectarian antisocial behavior in the community and aggression and delinquency towards the out-group. However, social identity weakened the effect for exposure to sectarian antisocial behavior in the community on general aggressive behaviors. Gender differences also emerged; the relation between exposure to sectarian antisocial behavior and sectarian aggression was stronger for boys. The results have implications for understanding the complex role of social identity in intergroup relations for youth in post-accord societies.

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