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Is violence ever right? Moral reasoning about violence among youngsters belonging to gangs and peacebuilding groups

Dedios Sanguineti, Maria Cecilia and Jovchelovitch, Sandra ORCID: 0000-0002-0073-2792 (2021) Is violence ever right? Moral reasoning about violence among youngsters belonging to gangs and peacebuilding groups. Psychology of Violence, 11 (2). 123 – 132. ISSN 2152-0828

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Identification Number: 10.1037/vio0000376


Objective: We investigate cultural group-level understandings of violence and their connections to individual moral reasoning about violence among disadvantaged young people belonging to gangs (n = 33) and peacebuilding (n = 30) groups. Methods: Drawing from in-depth interviews in two low-income neighborhoods in Colombia, we use thematic analysis to explore and compare group-level understandings of violence-entailing definitions of violence, causal attributions of violence, and strategies to handle violence in everyday life-by type of youth group. Next, we use a chi-square analysis to assess between-group differences in the proportion of participants endorsing the morality of violence according to eight potential moral violence triggers. Results: Youths from both types of groups define violence in similar terms with one key difference. Only gang members ascribe agency to "the group" (i.e., the gang and the family) describing it as a social entity capable of harming and being harmed. This taken-for-granted cultural assumption frames the gang members' justifications of violence as moral to defend one's group. Concurrently, a higher proportion of youths from violent groups support the morality of violence to defend one's reputation (p = .001), honor (p <.001), and group (p = .001). Conclusions: Between-group differences in shared understandings of violence are consistent with differences in individual moral reasoning about violence across group type. The findings have implications for improving the efficacy of violence prevention interventions, which rarely account for the link between young people's shared understandings of violence and moral reasoning about its use.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 American Psychological Association
Divisions: Psychological and Behavioural Science
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2020 15:39
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 03:33

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