Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7083-8579

Date of Award

Spring 3-25-2020

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Kevin Swartout

Abstract

Perceived peer attitudes often influence young adult men’s violent attitudes and intentions, whereas the structure of peer networks can moderate this relationship. For example, people with more diverse social networks are less likely to adopt their close peers’ violent attitudes and behaviors. Despite that, there is currently limited research examining the role of structural features of peer networks in the relationship between perceived peer attitudes and violent extremist attitudes or intentions. Consequently, the current study sought to address this gap in research and answer the following questions: (1) To what extent are perceived peer attitudes, personal attitudes, and violent extremist intentions related to each other? (2) To what extent does the relationship between perceived peer attitudes and violent extremist intentions differ at different levels of social network diversity? The study sample consisted of 340 young adult men (i.e., 18-29 years old). Data collection took place via Amazon Mturk, an online-based crowdsourcing platform. Participants first indicated a social group with which they most strongly identify and listed their five closest male peers from the same group. Next, participants reported their violent extremist attitudes, intentions, and their perceptions of their peers’ opinions. Overall, perceived peer attitudes were positively and significantly associated with violent extremist intentions through their relationship with personal attitudes. The mediating effect, however, was partial: personal attitudes did not fully account for the total association. Furthermore, social network diversity moderated the relationship between personal and perceived peer attitudes: participants with more diverse social networks were less likely to hold beliefs similar to their perceived peer attitudes. In general, study findings were in line with past research on the impact of perceived peer attitudes and social network structure on violent outcomes. Thus, future studies should explore the potential role of other aspects of peer networks in the development of violent extremist attitudes and intentions. Regarding its policy implications, the study highlights the need for social-ecological approaches to counter violent extremism, offering young adult men opportunities for community involvement and growth of social ties.

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