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Social Identity and Violence Among Immigrant Adolescents

NCJ Number
New Directions for Youth Development Issue: 119 Dated: Fall 2008 Pages: 129-150
Gustavo S. Mesch; Hagit Turjeman; Gideon Fishman
Date Published
22 pages
An investigation was undertaken on what accounts for violence and delinquency among immigrant youth and whether adopting a new identity was associated with normative social adjustment.
Results of the study indicate that (1) adolescents who associated with delinquent peers were more likely to be involved in violent conduct; (2) recognition is a key variable in explaining youth violence; when recognition is not granted, the individuals may feel discriminated against due to their immigrant status; (3) family stress due to immigration and poor family functioning as a control agent, intergenerational conflicts that challenge parental authority, and downward mobility are considered indicators for social disintegration and are closely associated with violence; and (4) the ability of an individual to adopt at least one salient identity reduces the likelihood of violence, and youths who failed to adopt either an Israeli or a Russian identity were most likely to be involved in violence. Disintegration is found to be no more a result of poor internalization of the dominant culture than the inability to identify with either the ancestral or the nature culture. In a multicultural society, assimilation is not the best path to social adjustment. A strong identity, from either the old culture or the new one or both, serves as a source of recognition and a buffer against violence. The purpose of this study was to examine the link between the acculturation of immigrant youths and violence. The study was based on a national 3-wave, face-to-face survey, conducted between 2002 and 2005, among 1,420 adolescents who immigrated from the former Soviet Union to Israel during the years 1997 to 2003. 5 tables and 36 notes