Collective identity, social adversity and college student sympathy for violent radicalization
Transcultural Psychiatry, 2019
By Cécile Rousseau, Youssef Oulhote, Vanessa Lecompte, Abdelwahed Mekki-Berrada, Ghayda Hassan and Habib El Hage
Identity issues have been at the forefront in studies on determinants of the violent radicalization of youth. Confusion around identity and fusion of identity appear to be associated with searches for meaning that may find answers in extremist discourses and radical engagement. This process has been considered to be particularly important for second-generation migrants who have to negotiate multiple identities, sometimes in situations of social adversity. This article aims to understand the relationship between collective identity, social adversity (discrimination and exposure to violence), and sympathy for violent radicalization in College students in Quebec. This mixed-method study consisted of a broad online survey conducted at eight colleges in Quebec. Multilevel analysis accounted for the clustered nature of data while generalized additive mixed models were used to study nonlinear relationships. Results highlight the complex associations between collective identity and youth sympathy for violent radicalization. They confirm that negative public representations of minority communities may lead to greater sympathy for violent radicalization. Although results suggest that stronger identities can act as protective anchors for youth, they also indicate that when collective identity becomes too central to personal identity this may accentuate othering processes and legitimize violence toward the external group. These results have implications for prevention programs. They indicate that improving the public image of minority communities through mainstream or social media may increase youth’s self-esteem and decrease their sympathy toward violent radicalization. They also invite the education field to foster the development of strong plural identities.