In 2007, 7,624 hate crimes were committed in the United States, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Hate Crime Statistics report. More than half of the victims were targeted for their race and 14.1 percent were targeted for their ethnicity.
Eric Dubow, PhD, is working to reduce those numbers with the help of a $20,000 Violence Prevention and Intervention grant from the American Psychological Foundation to the University of Michigan.
Research shows that most hate crimes are committed by those 21 and under, says Dubow, a psychology professor and violence researcher at Bowling Green State University and an adjunct research scientist at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. To reach that group, he's developed a curriculum for teaching teenagers about tolerance and reducing stereotypes, and he will use the grant funds to pilot-test the lesson plan in a Detroit high school this winter.
Using a peer-to-peer model, Dubow and colleagues L. Rowell Huesmann, PhD, Maureen O'Brien and Violet Souweidane at Michigan, and Paul Boxer, PhD, of Rutgers University, will train 11th- and 12th-graders to deliver lessons on reducing ethnic and racial stereotypes to ninth-graders. The lessons will cover what stereotypes are, where they can come from (media, family, church, school) and how stereotypes can lead to prejudiced behavior, including hate crimes, says Dubow.
Students will role play, share their own experiences with prejudice and racism, and study psychology's classic Robbers Cave intergroup conflict experiment—research that showed that working toward common goals can quash prejudice. Dubow says students relate to the study because it involved 12-year-olds at a summer camp.
"We're targeting the materials to the cognitive developmental level of the kids," Dubow says. "Teenagers are really starting to understand ethnic conflict and intergroup conflicts at this age."
Dubow's project was motivated by a 2007 study he and his Michigan colleagues conducted and presented at the Society for Research in Child Development conference. Their research found that high school students of Arab or Jewish descent develop negative attitudes and stereotypes about each other in part based on how much they identify with the ethnic groups portrayed in media reports of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
These days, he is working on several longitudinal studies on violence and aggression, including one funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development exploring how political and ethnic conflict affects the mental health of Palestinian and Israeli children.
For more information on APF's Violence Prevention and Intervention grant program, contact Emily Leary.