Xenophobic Attitudes as a Function of Personal Attachment, Social Disintegration and Relative Deprivation, FEBiD

The Project

The FEBiD project focuses on the assumption that xenophobia is not determined solely by external, social structural or internal, person-related factors. A suitable explanatory approach should therefore take appropriate account of both of these groups of factors and their interaction. This is done within the framework of the FEBiD model, in which the binding style as an internal variable, social disintegration as an external variable and thirdly both variables - i. e. binding style and disintegration - play a causal role in the interaction of whether and to what extent individuals develop derogatory, distrustful or hostile attitudes towards members of ethnic foreign groups. Particularly pronounced xenophobia is expected in the event of a shared existence of insecure binding style and social disintegration. What is new about this is the attempt to trace xenophobia back to adult binding styles in a representative, empirical-quantitative study. The examinations of the first and third relationships are therefore the main concerns of the research project. The extensive use of established and proven measuring instruments is also intended to ensure comparability with other studies such as the ALLBUS 1996 and the GMF Survey.


Key Project Information

  1. First Project Phase: 2006 to 2008
  2. Project Management: Professor Paul Hill
  3. Project Collaborators: Dr. Kirsten Rüssmann; Michaela Jüttemann M. A.; Andreas Vöttiner M. A.; Simon Dierkes; Hilke Krausnick
  4. Project Funding: German Research Foundation
  5. Funding Period: April 1, 2006 to March 31, 2008
  6. Funding: approximately 273,000 euros

The Model

The analysis model consists of two strands, which, presumably, each of them makes a significant contribution to the clarification of variances in the explanandum xenophobic attitudes, both individually and interactively. One of the model strands postulates a direct influence of social disintegration on xenophobia and essentially follows the disintegration approach. The main reasons for individual social disintegration are therefore to be found in processes of social change and modernisation or on the socio-structural level (macro level). In order to examine this correlation, it is planned to collect some objective socio-economic indicators for the residential region of the interviewees (for example: unemployment rate, proportion of foreigners, productivity, regional migration). First of all, the social disintegration of the individual is important, since frustrations, dissatisfaction and fears arise from one's own being affected, which can be alleviated by aggressions and hostilities towards the weaker ones. Since increases in xenophobia are frequently proven to be dependent on various aspects of social disintegration, particularly socio-economic aspects, the model line discussed is basically stable in this respect. However, the other two dimensions of social disintegration must also be tested extensively for influences in this respect. Heitmeyer's approach to the three areas of social disintegration (individual-functional system integration, communicative-interactive social integration and cultural-expressive social integration) can be expected to include the following basic relationships with regard to xenophobia: the more pronounced the social disintegration (along each of its dimensions and overall), the more pronounced the xenophobia. The logical structure of the entire first model string opens up the possibility to examine whether and to what extent the primarily psychological displacement mechanism is induced by the sociologically relevant variables involved.

The other model string postulates a direct influence of the current personal bonding style on xenophobic attitudes. As a concept that was originally used in psychological and later also in family sociology, the personal bonding style combines two aspects: firstly, past bonding experiences and experiences in the course of (primary) socialisation, and secondly, as a result of these experiences, an internal working model of bonding, which in the present day as a prototype fundamentally controls the shaping of intimate relationships. The project assumes that the internalised style of commitment generally determines the design of social relationships and thus encodes basic willingness to meet and enter. These readiness levels are generally reduced or absent for persons with an insecure attachment style due to fear and/or disinterest. Unsafe binding types are therefore more suspicious and/or reluctant. The ability or willingness to enter into trust-based ties, which are the central criterion for the differentiation of secure and insecure binding styles, is therefore only a manifestation of an internalized general cognitive scheme of social relationships. Another manifestation of this internal prototype model is the attitude towards members of different groups of people with whom potential relationships and encounters are possible, including ethnic foreign groups in Germany. Accordingly, a similar relationship is expected between the current personal bonding style and attitudes towards ethnic minorities, which hypothetically presents itself as follows: Persons with an insecure bonding style are significantly more xenophobic than those with a secure bonding style.

Confirmation of this hypothesis would be empirical evidence of the relevance of binding theoretical constructs in sociological research into xenophobic attitudes.
The two strands outlined in the model include both objective and socially structural as well as individual-specific explanatory components. Their integration is achieved through the interaction between social disintegration and the current style of binding.
Comparable disintegration situations arouse conflict potential of varying degrees of intensity in persons with safe and unsafe binding styles.
The connection between social disintegration and present style of binding does not mean a general one, but rather a specific conditionality of one construct through the other (and vice versa): each of the two influences the effect of the other in the direction of the dependent construct xenophobia.
In the FEBiD model, relative deprivation is at the centre of the FEBiD model, in addition to the elements and connections discussed so far. This construct is used in its original meaning, aptly expressed by Runciman's definition (1966:10). Relative deprivation thus involves social comparison processes and as a result of this,' negative' experience in the face of an unfairly perceived disadvantage towards the social reference group. In the individual case, two groups of factors always determine the extent of relative deprivation: objective situation characteristics and subjective dispositions. The fact that the objective social situation (for example unemployment, lack of money, low level of education) requires the individual extent of relative deprivation is obvious and well documented. Since such objective factors represent central aspects of social disintegration (along the socio-structural dimension), an effect arrow in the FEBiD model leads from social disintegration to relative deprivation. Results of social comparison processes also depend on individual dispositions. The assumption made here means that the current binding style is such a scheduling component. If the internal working model actually contains prototyping schemes with regard to the form of possible binding relationships and thus essential aspects of the self-perception and the foreign perception, then the extent of relative deprivation will also vary depending on the binding style, since the view of the self and the others is highly relevant for the result of each social comparison.
Finally, it is to be checked whether there is an influence of xenophobic attitudes on willingness to discriminate. Since actual discrimination, ranging from mere contact avoidance and unequal treatment to violent assaults, cannot be measured directly in a survey, the FEBiD model provides for a willingness to do so. Moderate effects of xenophobic attitudes on willingness to discriminate are assumed. An extensive analysis of the dependency profile of this relationship is planned.

Conducting the Study

The total duration of the project is divided into four phases. The first phase (01 April 2006 to 31 January 2007) comprises 10 months. It begins with the development of theory and hypotheses, then deals with the construction of the scales and instruments for hypothesis testing in accordance with the requirements of test theory and their testing in a pretest. The first phase ends with the completion of the instruments to be used in the main study.
The second phase (February 1,2007 to April 30,2007) begins with the application of the developed instrument in the target sample (N=2000) and ends after three months with the delivery of machine-readable data by professional subcontractors. In the second phase, the scientific staff of the RWTH Aachen University will develop an evaluation strategy for the second phase in order to review the hypotheses and to determine reliability and validity parameters.
The third phase (01 May 2007 to 31 December 2007) consists of a detailed evaluation and hypothesis examination. A period of eight months is estimated for this purpose. The fourth and final project phase (January 1,2008 to March 31,2008) is devoted to reporting and lasts three months.