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Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Print version ISSN 0042-9686


MCALISTER, Alfred et al. Attitudes towards war, killing, and punishment of children among young people in Estonia, Finland, Romania, the Russian Federation, and the USA. Bull World Health Organ [online]. 2001, vol.79, n.5, pp.382-387. ISSN 0042-9686.

OBJECTIVE: To study the cultural differences in moral disengagement, which lends support to attitudes used to justify violence. METHODS: We carried out classroom surveys of a total of 3122 students in the USA (Houston, TX, and Washington, DC) and in four European countries - Estonia (Tartu), Finland (Helsinki), Romania (Satu Mare) and the Russian Federation (St Petersburg). Data were also taken from a random sample telephone survey of 341 young adults (aged 18-35 years) in Texas, USA. Ten distinct groups were studied. Seven questions were common to all the surveys, using identical statements about the participants’ agreement with attitudes relating to war, diplomacy, killing, and the punishment of children. FINDINGS: The US students were more likely than those in Europe to agree with the following statements: ‘‘War is necessary’’ (20% vs 9%), ‘‘A person has the right to kill to defend property’’ (54% vs 17%), and ‘‘Physical punishment is necessary for children’’ (27% vs 10%). Justification of war and killing was less common among females than males in all groups; other differences within the US groups and the European groups were smaller than the differences between the US and European groups. CONCLUSION: The results confirm the gap between the US and European groups in moral disengagement attitudes and tendencies that could lead to deadly violence.

Keywords : Violence; War; Punishment; Attitude [ethnology]; Child; Cross-cultural comparison; Europe; Estonia; Finland; Romania; Russian Federation; United States.

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