232.4 Minorities, high-risk behavior, and social resistance

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 10:00 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Roni FACTOR , School of Criminology, University of Haifa, Israel
Across societies, non-dominant minorities often exhibit higher rates of involvement, compared to the dominant group, in high-risk behaviors such as smoking, drug and alcohol use, sexual risk behaviors, overeating, and unsafe driving habits. Over the years, different explanations have been put forward to explain this phenomenon. These theories tend to fall into two classes: macro-structural or micro-agentic explanations. Also, they tend to regard individuals as passive players who are influenced by the social environment or by psychological problems, or who fail to make “good” choices.

This research tests an integrated theoretical framework that incorporates both micro and macro explanations and that perceives members of non-dominant groups as active players. The social resistance framework suggests that power relations in society encourage members of non-dominant groups to actively engage, consciously or unconsciously, in everyday resistance practices that include various high-risk behaviors.

To test the research hypotheses, two surveys were conducted among representative samples of two non-dominant minority groups and two majority groups. We conducted the first survey in Israel among 530 Israeli Arabs and 530 Jews, and the second in the U.S. among 200 African Americans and 200 whites. The results indicate that among both non-dominant minority groups, social resistance was positively and significantly correlated with engagement in various high-risk and unhealthy behaviors – such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and traffic violations – after controlling for various variables.

The findings provide preliminary support for the social resistance framework and suggest that people who engage in high-risk behaviors make risky choices as an agentic expression of their resistance. Therefore, we should focus less on delivering educational messages and shift more attention to people’s underlying motivations for choosing particular behaviors, e.g., by developing interventions that will change the target of the resistance or channel it to less risky alternatives.