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Testing the intergroup threat theory in a multiethnic community after a severe conflict


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Löw Stanić, Ajana. (2014). Testing the intergroup threat theory in a multiethnic community after a severe conflict. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Psychology.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij psihologije) [mentor Ajduković, Dean].

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Introduction According to the Intergroup Threat Theory (Stephan & Renfro, 2002), a perception of threat from an outgroup occurs when a person experiences that the outgroup's acts, attitudes or characteristics could endanger the goals or well-being of the ingroup. The theory postulates two types of perceived threat: realistic threat – experience of economic, political and/or physical threat from the outgroup, and symbolic threat – experience of threatening ingroup’s values, norms, beliefs, symbols or way of life. Earlier research have largely focused on the majority groups' perception of threat from immigrants, while the perceived threat among groups of different status that have been living in the same community or have experienced a recent conflict has been poorly investigated. Thus, the aim of this research was to test the Intergroup Threat Theory among groups of different status in a multiethnic community after a severe conflict. Specifically, we wanted to examine the mediating effect of perceived threat on the relationship between intergroup contact intensity and intergroup orientation, as well as on the relationship between intergroup friendship quality and intergroup orientation. We also wanted to investigate if (and how) those relationships were moderated by the relative (majority-minority) group status. Methodology The sample consisted of adult Vukovar citizens (N=679), members of majority (Croats) and minority (Serbs) ethnic groups, parents of pupils attending bilingual schools. We used a combination of cluster and systematic sampling method. The questionnaire included measures of perceived intergroup threats, intergroup contact and ingroup identification, indicators of intergroup orientation and socio-demographic questions. Analyses were done using structural equation modeling. Results Results have partially confirmed the assumptions of the Intergroup Threat Theory. In line with the hypotheses, higher intergroup contact intensity, through reduced symbolic threat, resulted in lower intergroup bias, perception of better future relations between groups, and reduced intention to discriminate the outgroup member, with the highest effect for discrimination in the interpersonal context. Higher intergroup friendship quality, through reduced symbolic threat, resulted in perception of better future relations between groups, while its effect on discrimination in interpersonal context was both indirect and direct. Ingroup identification was highly associated with both types of threat. Contrary to the assumptions, we didn’t find significant mediating effects of realistic threat. Higher intergroup friendship quality was generally a stronger predictor of reduced symbolic threat than higher intergroup contact intensity. Majority-minority group status was a significant moderator: a stronger mediating effect of symbolic threat on the relationship between contact intensity and intergroup orientation was found for minority, and on the relationship between friendship quality and intergroup orientation for majority. Generally, majority reacted to threat more directly and actively – by showing higher tendency to discriminate an outgroup member and more intergroup bias, while minority reacted more passively – by perceiving worse future intergroup relations. Discussion Particular importance of symbolic threat in Vukovar context is probably a result of the strong emphasis on cultural and language differences between Croats and Serbs, Croats’ tendency to assimilate the Serbs, and Serbs’ need to maintain their social identity, as well as past war trauma and the destruction of identity symbols during and after the war. In this context, identity is a very important variable, as can be seen from its high association with threat variables. Insignificant role of the realistic threat can be explained by the perception of stability and legitimacy of status differences between Croats and Serbs in Vukovar, which is enhanced by the assignment of the war victim or perpetrator status, as well as by the stable security situation in the community and clear political legislations and laws, which govern both majority and minority. Symbolic threat can be effectively reduced by enhancing intergroup friendship quality which, compared to higher contact quantity, has additional benefits for intergroup relations – it provides optimal conditions for positive contact effects and builds trust between groups. High intergroup friendship quality is especially important for majority groups because their members have fewer opportunities for intergroup contacts and hence higher needs for additional information provided by the contact quality. For minority groups, it is very important to enhance contact quantity because their members have a higher need for sense of integration in the community. Conclusion This research indicates that in post-conflict multiethnic communities, symbolic threat is an important mediator in the relationship of contact and intergroup orientation, and enhancing intergroup friendship quality is an effective mechanism of reducing symbolic threat. Results show that threat perception has a different role in social-psychological world of majorities and minorities, which is largely determined by specific context of intergroup relations.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: intergroup threat theory, intergroup contact, intergroup friendships, multiethnic community, post-conflict community
Subjects: Psychology > Socijalna psihologija
Departments: Department of Psychology
Supervisor: Ajduković, Dean
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij psihologije
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2017 11:39
Last Modified: 16 Oct 2017 11:39

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