Social bonds in the diaspora: The application of social control theory to somali refugee young adults in resettlement

Emma Cardeli, Georgios Sideridis, Alisa K. Lincoln, Saida M. Abdi, B. Heidi Ellis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objective: This study tested the applicability of social control theory to Somali refugees in resettlement, taking into account the potential impact of migration on social bonds. Hypotheses were as follows: (a) Experiences of adversity and weak social bonds would predict both antisocial behavior and radicalization to violence; (b) the relationship between adversity and these outcome variables would be mediated by weak social bonds; and (c) mediational models would be invariant across time and gender. Method: Data for the present study were collected as part of the Somali Youth Longitudinal Study. A total of 532 participants, aged 18 to 30, were recruited from five North American communities with high concentrations of Somalis. Participants completed self-report measures assessing a range of attitudes and experiences, including exposure to traumatic events, discrimination, social bonds, antisocial behavior, and radicalization to violence. Results: Hypotheses were supported by analyses; some social bonds mediated the relationship between adversity and outcome variables. Specifically, social cohesion and social disconnection fully mediated the relationship between discrimination (the sole remaining adversity variable in the best fitted path model) and both outcome variables. Results were invariant over time and partially by gender. Conclusions: Social control theory appears to offer an explanatory model for different types of antisocial attitudes and behavior among Somalis resettled in the United States and Canada. Results underscore the importance of attending to both the migration context and social bonds formed in resettlement when designing violence prevention programs for refugee and immigrant young adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-29
Number of pages12
JournalPsychology of Violence
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

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© 2019 American Psychological Association.


  • Discrimination
  • Refugee
  • Social bonds
  • Violence


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