Collective Identity, Social Adversity and College Student Sympathy for Violent Radicalization

Rousseau, C., Oulhote, Y., Lecompte, V., Mekki-Berrada, A., Hassan, G., & El Hage, H. (2019)

Transcultural psychiatry

Identity issues have been at the forefront in studies on determinants of youth violent radicalization. Identity uncertainty and identity fusion appear to be associated with quests for meaning, which may find some answers in extremist discourses and radical engagements. 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. T

his paper aims to understand the relations 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 large 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 relations.

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 more sympathy for violent radicalization. Although results suggest that strong enough identities can act as protective anchorages for youth, they also indicate that when collective identity becomes too central in personal identity this may accentuate othering processes and legitimize violence toward the out-group.

These results have implications for prevention programs. They indicate that improving the public image of minority communities through mainstream media or the social media may increase youth public self-esteem and decrease their sympathy for violent radicalization. They also invite the education field to foster the development of strong plural identities