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Development of Xenophobia and Aggression

NCJ Number
International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice Volume: 26 Issue: 2 Dated: Fall 2002 Pages: 247-256
Klaus Wahl
Date Published
10 pages
This article discusses the causes of xenophobia and aggression in Germany.
The German Youth Institute in Munich conducted a series of interdisciplinary empirical studies. The analysis involved police records, sentences, longitudinal studies, and intensive studies with xenophobic adolescents, offenders and control groups. Four different developmental paths underlying aggression, xenophobia, general deviance, and right-wing extremist ideology were reconstructed. The first path showed some patterns of behavior and extreme emotions in early childhood, such as anger, hate, hyperactivity, aggression, fear, and grief preceding later xenophobic violence. The second path of development was the type of contact with unfamiliar people. Xenophobia and hostility towards foreigners appeared to be based upon emotional factors, which were not primarily directed against foreigners, but directed towards unfamiliar people in general. The third path of development, shown in adolescence, was provocative, antisocial behavior and deviance. The fourth path of development was the emergence of right-wing extremist ideologies. The four main dimensions of influence beyond the factors of sex-gender and level of education are emotional and behavioral dispositions observed early in the temperament of young children; some structural aspects such as broken homes, and growing up without a biological father; a cold, emotional family climate with much conflict and violence; and peer groups. It appears that prevention of xenophobic attitudes and violence must take place in the early periods of emotional socialization and social learning. A more in-depth focus on the individual biographical processes of children from their early years on is needed. 3 diagrams, 1 note, 13 references