Political Violence and Adolescent Out-group Attitudes and Prosocial Behaviors: Implications for Positive Inter-group Relations

Soc Dev. 2014 Nov;23(4):840-859. doi: 10.1111/sode.12074. Epub 2014 Jul 3.


The negative impact of political violence on adolescent adjustment is well-established. Less is known about factors that affect adolescents' positive outcomes in ethnically-divided societies, especially influences on prosocial behaviors toward the outgroup, which may promote constructive relations. For example, understanding how intergroup experiences and attitudes motivate outgroup helping may foster intergroup cooperation and help to consolidate peace. The current study investigated adolescents' overall and outgroup prosocial behaviors across two time points in Belfast, Northern Ireland (N = 714 dyads; 49% male; Time 1: M = 14.7, SD = 2.0, years old). Controlling for Time 1 prosocial behaviors, age and gender, multivariate structural equation modeling showed that experience with intergroup sectarian threat predicted fewer outgroup prosocial behaviors at Time 2 at the trend level. On the other hand, greater experience of intragroup nonsectarian threat at Time 1 predicted more overall and outgroup prosocial behaviors at Time 2. Moreover, positive outgroup attitudes strengthened the link between intragroup threat and outgroup prosocial behaviors one year later. Finally, experience with intragroup nonsectarian threat and outgroup prosocial behaviors at Time 1 was related to more positive outgroup attitudes at Time 2. The implications for youth development and intergroup relations in post-accord societies are discussed.

Keywords: adolescence; conflict; intergroup relations; prosocial behavior; resilience.