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Peers influence response to threat: Cultural norms, reciprocity, and self-identity

Award Information

Award #
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Awardee County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $638,040)

Problem Statement:
Honor and dignity cultures each have effective within-culture strategies for containing aggression. People from different cultures or different regions of the US can be oblivious to each other’s strategies, leading to unintended conflict and aggression. Minority youth experience high levels of victimization, often from multiple sources. Ways in which cultural and peer norms may foster resilience, and help expand the range of acceptable responses to threat and victimization has not been adequately addressed in research or practice. This project will (1) test a culturally-informed theoretical model of peer helping, reciprocity and influence; (2) develop reliable and valid measures of honor and dignity norms; (3) obtain youth views on effective nonviolent responses to peer victimization; and (4) develop cultural competency units for student programs and professional development workshops.

256 males and females in grades 9 – 11 (64 each Mexican-, African-, European-, and Indigenous Americans) from three locales: urban and rural WA and rural Idaho.

Mixed Research Methods:
Interviews and surveys conducted over two years (spring - summer of 2016, 2017) ask students about times they have provided each of four types of help or advice to threatened friends, and times they have been the recipient of the same four types. Qualitative coding of interview responses follows immediately (fall - winter of 2016, 2017). Ratings of identity-relevant feelings (e.g., pride, guilt, connection, obligation) measure the perceived effectiveness, acceptability, and costs-benefits of each type of youth-generated helping response. Surveys measure cultural norms and experiences with discrimination and victimization.

(1) Based on prior work, calming a threatened friend and attempting reconciliation (but not encouraging or attempting retaliation) will affirm self-identity and social connection for both parties.
(2) Honor norms demanding personal retaliation evolve when access to institutional protection and justice is limited. Therefore, perceived discrimination will predict honor norms and retaliation.

Repeated measures analyses of variance (fall, 2017) will determine how type of helping response predicts self-identity, connection, influence and obligation in both parties. Item-response theory analyses will assess reliability and validity of the cultural norms surveys. The use of rating scales and in-depth interviews provide complementary data that can be cross-checked to strengthen the validity of our interpretation.

Four peer-reviewed articles; reliable, valid measures of cultural norms; data coded and summarized by case; trade-press articles summarizing promising practices; and workshop units promoting cultural competency for teens and adults piloted and shared with Seattle City Youth Violence Initiative.

Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law.


Date Created: September 30, 2015