Methods: We performed a PROCESS moderation analysis using SPSS (PROCESS-Model #1) to test the moderating role of religiosity on the correlation between serious physical violence against others and peer delinquency.The sample was designed to represent Muslim Arab-Palestinian students in grades 7 to 11 in Israel in the formal education system supervised by the Israeli Ministry of Education. We used a probability sampling method to obtain a non-proportional multistage stratified cluster sample. The total sample comprised 2,811 Muslim students aged 13–18. Of the sample, 59.6% were girls (M = 14.81, SD = 1.41).The participants in the study completed a structured, anonymous, self-report questionnaire.
Results: The findings showed that religiosity may play a protective role in preventing adolescent delinquency and in decreasing the effects of delinquent peers. We found that 28.4% of the participants had perpetrated serious physical violence at least once during the month preceding the study, and that there was a significant positive correlation between affiliation with delinquent peers and perpetration of serious physical violence (r = .54, P < .05). The correlation between affiliation with delinquent peers and perpetration of serious physical violence was found to be weaker among those who identified as religious than among those who identified as non-religious, after controlling for individual, familial, and social variables. Because religiosity was found to be a moderating factor in the relationship between affiliation with delinquent peers and violence (B = 0.20, SE = 0.01, p <.001), these findings highlight the critical role of religiosity as a protective factor.
Conclusions: The results of the study call for developing culturally sensitive interventions that take into consideration the cultural context in which these youth live, including the central role religiosity might play in their lives. Thus, programs that aim to reduce youth violence should see religiosity as a resource for intervention. We believe it is important for social workers and mental health practitioners to be understanding of youths’ religious norms and values, even if they are not in accord with their own norms and beliefs. Our results suggest that youth violence can be effectively addressed with a holistic approach that takes into account a set of risk factors (gender, exposure to community violence) and protective factors (religiosity, parental support)that we found to be related to youth involvement in serious physical violence.