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Microaggressions in the Context of Conflict: A Study of Perceived Discrimination among Israeli Adolescents

  • Author(s): Mark, Hanna Frances
  • Advisor(s): Segal, Steven P.
  • et al.
Abstract

Ethnic microaggressions refer to subtle slights or mistreatments that can occur in regard to someone’s ethnicity. This study tests the validity of an adapted measure of racial microaggressions among a sample of Israeli students in order to understand which ethnic microaggression dimensions emerge from adolescent self-reports. It uses those dimensions to assess how they correlate with general perceptions of discrimination and with reports of psychological distress. It then seeks to understand how overall reports of microaggressions vary by ethnic identity and geographic locality. Cross-sectional data were collected from high school students throughout Israel (N =1,031). An exploratory factor analysis revealed four dimensions of microaggressions: (1) Invisible Ethnicity, (2) Criminalized Ethnicity, (3) Disadvantaged Ethnicity, and (4) Homogenized Ethnicity. The Invisible and Criminalized dimensions corresponded closely to dimensions identified in prior United States-based, adult-focused research, suggesting that those dimensions may be valid cross-nationally and with both adolescent and adult populations. An ordinal logistic regression revealed that Disadvantaged Ethnicity was the only dimension to significantly correlate with more general perceptions of discrimination. A multiple linear regression revealed that Invisible Ethnicity and Criminalized Ethnicity both significantly correlated with higher levels of psychological distress. Via a two-level hierarchical linear model, it was found that identifying as Arab, Palestinian-Israeli, Ethiopian, or Bedouin significantly correlated with higher reports of microaggressions. However, differences in geographic-locality did little to explain variance in microaggression reports.

Findings from this study suggest that microaggression reports may vary by ethnicity, Israeli identity, level of religiosity, and mother’s education level. They additionally reveal that decreases in exposure to microaggressions related to Disadvantaged Ethnicity is associated with a decrease in perceptions of discrimination; decreases in exposure to microaggressions related to Invisible and Criminalized Ethnicity is associated with a decrease in psychological distress. Decreasing psychological distress could also be associated with decreased perceptions of discrimination. This study is the first to examine reports of microaggressions among Israeli adolescents, and to establish the relationship between microaggression reports, perceptions of general discrimination, and psychological distress. By building on social, political, and developmental psychology theories, it employs a unique approach to understanding how minority adolescents in Israel experience discrimination in their daily lives.

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