U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

A Qualitative Examination of How Somali Young Adults Think About and Understand Violence in Their Communities

NCJ Number
Journal of Interpersonal Violence Dated: 2020
Date Published

The goals of the reported research were to determine how Somali immigrants think about violence in their communities and the stigma related to this violence, as well as the implications of these perceptions/beliefs for violence prevention.


Efforts to prevent violence must consider the potentially stigmatizing labels associated with violence, and how youth perceive different types of violence in their communities. Somali communities and individuals in North America have at times been labeled as at-risk for violence, with two notable examples being gang violence and ideologically motivated violence, or violent radicalization. Little is known, however, about how the youth themselves think about and understand these types of violence in their communities. In addressing this issue, the current study obtained data from two qualitative studies conducted as part of an ongoing community-based participatory research (CBPR) collaboration between academic partners and Somali communities in three cities in North America. Study 1 consisted of nine focus groups (n = 36, male only), and Study 2 consisted of in-depth interviews (n = 40, male and female). All participants were Somali young adults living in North America. Overall, radicalization to violence was viewed as a remote and irrelevant issue in the Somali community. Participants distanced themselves from the idea of radicalization to violence and from those who participate in radical acts or held such beliefs. In contrast, gang involvement was characterized as a major problem for Somali communities, and a product of the marginalization associated with being a refugee in Canada or the United States. Findings suggest that prevention efforts focused on gangs are more likely to be acceptable to communities than those focused on violent extremism. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2020