Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

Readiness for Aggression and Ethnic Prejudice among Italian Adolescents

Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

Readiness for Aggression and Ethnic Prejudice among Italian Adolescents

Article excerpt

Too often in our modern multiethnic societies we assist to episodes of perpetuated discrimination and violence towards out-groups fostering prejudice in the name of national, cultural or religious differences. Among youths, these episodes can be ascribed to other phenomena such as bullying where aggressive and antisocial behaviors are especially directed towards who is considered "different". Indeed, prejudice such as other forms of negative intergroup attitudes, is associated to many social problems from the exclusion of ethnic minorities, immigrants, or other groups, to ill health, or even a more generally negative quality of life (see, Paradies, 2006). Negative attitudes are multifaceted and normally distinguished into three components: cognitive (attributing negative characteristics such as being mean or aggressive to members of the out-group), emotional (e.g., liking them less), and behavioral (e.g., exhibiting negative behavior such as discrimination) (Brewer, 1999). In line with the broad range of different operationalization, recent social-developmental research has studied prejudice within a broader framework of intergroup attitude development and clearly indicated that prejudice and other forms of biased intergroup attitudes start in early childhood as soon as the basic processes of social categorization and identification emerge (Raabe & Beelmann, 2011).

This has led to the identification of important individual and social developmental factors and processes. For example, it has been proposed that the development of abilities such as social identity (Nesdale, 2004), and moral decision making (Killen & Rutland, 2011) are crucial contributors to intergroup attitude development in children. Other research has focused more on social variables such as social norms (Rutland, 2004), and intergroup threat (Bar-Tal & Teichman, 2005). However, although all this research documents major scientific progress in understanding the emergence of prejudiced attitudes, there is an ongoing debate over when individual and social factors might crystallize in adolescence favoring the formation of steady prejudice (Tenenbaum & Ruck, 2012; Verkuyten & Slooter, 2007). In fact, we know that adolescence is a critical phase of active identity development that includes increasing exploration and formation of one's own social (ethnic) identities (Crocetti, Rabaglietti, & Sica, 2012; Degner & Wendura, 2010; French, Seidman, Allen, & Aber, 2006). During these years, adolescents deliberately face their ethnic, cultural, and national identities and begin to more consciously identify with their in-groups. Therefore, identification processes taking place during this age period may accentuate the perceived differences between one's own group and other groups. For example, some studies have shown that interracial behavior is related to individual aggressiveness and racial attitudes of the family and peers in adolescents (Patchen, Davidson, Hofmann, & Brown, 1977). Others evidenced a positive relation between ethnic and national identity from one side and prejudice from another side (Verkuyten, 2001). However, the underlying developmental processes of prejudice among younger populations (i.e., adolescents) have not yet been fully investigated. Thus, given the rapid changes in the racial and ethnic composition of ours societies it is crucial to focus on the age period of adolescence to evidence sources of individual differences that may lead to significant variation in the extent to which forms of prejudice are manifested. Hence, in this present study we looked at the social development of prejudice during adolescence, contending that individual traits of readiness and endorsement for aggression may predict prejudice towards ethnic groups.

Social distance as a measure of prejudice

Significant prejudice research has considered social distance as an attitudinal element of prejudice that is more easily measured (e. …

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