Papers from the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology Conferences

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Much has been written about the social control of Arab girls as one of the parental practices in a collective culture. Most girls are subject to strict rules and modesty codes and only a few dare to confront their culture by breaking the rules and engaging in risky unacceptable behavior. In this study, we interviewed eight such girls to examine why, when, and how they defied acceptable social norms and the consequences they suffered. Interestingly, the experience of risk taking yielded narratives that revealed a search for personal, social, and gender identity and highlighted the effect of the strictness of the family and the legitimation of the peer group. As I show in this paper, the participants in the study paid a heavy price for their actions and suffered severe emotional and social consequences, mainly because of the harsh reactions of their families and schools. Furthermore, they expressed anxiety regarding their future status in their collective culture. Our findings help explain how Arab girls in a collective culture bargain with the patriarchy, and will help educational counselors and therapists to understand better the needs of Arab girls and to intervene more effectively in such cases. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first qualitative study that has been conducted among young female Arab citizens of Israel. The definition of risky behavior needs to be revised in the context of authoritarian collective cultures to include disobedience that endangers the vital needs of girls. “Istighaba” (expressing personal opinions and needs secretly), which is a legitimate social coping mechanism, is a very risky behavior that exposes some of the girls to serious punishments.

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