Creat ive Educati on
2014. Vo l.5, No.2, 75-85
Published Online February 2014 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/ce) http://dx.doi. org/10.4236/ce.2014.52013
Religiosity, Social Support, Self-Control and Happiness as
Moderating Factors of Physical Violence among Arab
Adolescents in Israel
Educational Research and Development Authority, Al-Qasmie College, Baqa E l -Garbia, Israel
Email: Q firstname.lastname@example.org
Received December 18th, 2013; revised January 18th, 2014; accepted January 25th, 2014
Copyrigh t © 2014 Qutaiba Agbaria. Thi s is an open access a rticle d ist ributed under t he Cr eati ve Common s At-
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This study examines the correlation among a number of personal and environmental resources that can
reduce violence among Arab adolescents in Israel. These are: religiosity, happiness, social support, and
self-control . The par ticip ants in the study cons is ted of 2 25 Pa lesti nian Ara b teena gers l iving in Is rael par-
ticipated in thi s study. The participants study in gra des 8 and 9, in s tate school s in the northern p art of The
Tria ngle. The findi ngs indica te that al l the r esources t hat were examin ed contrib ute to reduci ng the level
of viol ence; in ot her words, s ignifica nt negative corr elations were found between the le vel of reli giosity,
happiness, social support and self-control on the one hand, and the level of violence on the other hand.
These findings are consistent with those of other studies conducted elsewhere in the world on different
populations (Christian and Jewish, as well as Muslim). The present study and its findings are, however,
the fi rst to addr ess the unders tanding of violence amon g the pop ulace in ques tion. The f indings wer e dis-
cussed in accordance with a number of different theor ies.
Key words: Arab Adolesc ents; Violence; Reli giosit y; Happiness; Soci al Support; Self-Control
Over recent years, violence in all its facets, and particularly
physical violence, has become a common phenomenon in the
State o f Israel, app earing in almost every enviro nment in which
people live: in family and society, within the framework of
stud ies and employment , on the road s, at recreatio n venues and
on the sports field.
One of the frameworks in which we are witness to many
types of physical violence is the educational system, where both
children and adults are affected (Ben-Baruch, 2005; Benbe-
nishty, 2002). Although studies have pointed to a decrease in
incidents of violence in schools between 1990-2000 (Benbe-
nishty, Khoury-Kassabri, & Astor, 2006), studies undertaken in
Israel among adolescents have shown that close to 40% of all
Israeli students in public and high schools have reported en-
countering many incidents of bullying and harassment at school
(Benbenishty, 2002; Benbenishty, Zeira, & Astor, 2000; Rolid-
er, 2007); more than 16% of the children reported that they had
stayed away from school due to a fear that they would be ha-
rassed, and others reported on great physical injury (Astor,
Benbenishty, & Estrada, 2008).
The issue of violence h as been the subject of extensive global
research. Some studies have focused on the incidence, descrip-
tion and scope of violence in society (Benbenishty, 2002; Ben-
benishty et al., 2000; Rolider, 2007). Other studies have re-
ferred to the phenomenon of violence in relation to gender
(Ronen, R a ha v , & Moldaws ky , 2007; Warman & Cohe n, 2000).
This present study focuses on the physical violence of Arab
teenagers at s cho ol . Benbenishty et al.’s research (2006 ) reveals
that more Arab students have reported on a violent atmosphere
at school (49.8%) than the Jewish sector (40.6%). In addition, it
was revealed that Jewish students have a better feeling about
their schools coping with physical behavior than do Arab stu-
dents (81.6% compared to 67.4% respectively); Jewish students
also felt more of a kinship to their schools than Arab students
(75.4% compared to 67.7% respectively).
According to various studies undertaken in Israel (Benbe-
nishty et al., 2006; Benbenishty & Astor, 2005), physical vi-
olence and hooliganism at school were found to have a signifi-
cant correlation with poverty, low educational levels and low
socio -eco nomic status. According to data in the Bituach Leumi
report on poverty for 2009, approximately 57% of Arab fami-
lies are under the poverty line (Israeli National Insu rance Insti-
tute, 2010). This data points to the existing liability among this
popula tion to behave in a viole nt manner.
Aside from the above, it is important to stress the signific-
ance of th e maturat ion pro cess of Arabs in an Israeli society. As
aforesaid, Arab teenagers live in a developing society which is
undergoing an accelerated process of modernization that is
linked to the Israelization process, on the one hand (Alhaj, 1996)
and with counterparty processes of assimilation, expressed in
Palestinization processes, on the other (Samuha, 2004). Inhe-
rent in each of these processes is a system of different norms
OPEN ACCE SS 75
and valu es. Life in the shadow of these contradictions makes it
difficult for these teenagers to consolidate their identities. There
is a significant confusion between the adoption of a modern
orientation influenced by Jewish society and the adherence to
norms and values in Arabic tradition—I s l a m. In light of this,
there is room for exa minat io n o f the degree, if an y, that western
models referring to the phenomenon of physical violence in
reference to Arab teenagers can be generalized and imple-
The core question of this study is: To what degree do meas-
ures of religiosity, social support, well-being and skills of self-
control moderate physical violence among Arab teen agers?
Violence has received a wide ran ge of definiti ons. The tradi-
tional concept of violence has stressed the results of behavior
and has defined violence as behavior whose results harm a per-
son or property, where the harm may be psychological (dimi-
nishing value and humiliation) or physical (Bandura, 1973).
Despite this concept, the trend over the last decade has ac-
tually been to stress physical behavior as being linked to the
attacker’s in ten tion s, i.e. th e referen ce to vio len ce is to behavio r
directed towards another with the intention of causing harm
(Joireman, Anderson, & Stra thman, 200 3) .
As with th e variet y of definitions, there have also been a va-
riety of explanations for violent behavior. Traditional explana-
tions have pointed to violence being an inherent instinct in
everyone (Freud, 1924; Lorenz, 1966). In contrast, there are
explanations that view violent behavior as being a result of
frustration, where, when the individual feels frustration, the
likelihood increases that violent behavior may be expressed
(Dollard, Doob, Miller, Mowrer , & Sears, 1939) .
The present study is based on the definition of Buss & Perry
(1992), which corresponds to definitions of the cognitive beha-
vioral approach, and sees physical violence as behavior linked
to an individual’s misguided hostile thoughts and negative
feelings (Bandura et al., 2001). A number of emphases on the
problem’s development appear in this approach. Those based
on social learning stress violent behavior being a social beha-
vior acquired in the learning process via conditioning or imita-
tion (Bandura, 1973), and linked to this is that undesired beha-
vior, i .e. violence, has desi red results that reinforce it s continu-
ation (Rolider, 2007). More modern explanations stress the
cognit ive aspect of behavior (Bandura, Caprara, Barb aranelli, &
Pastorelli, 2001), stressing violent behavior as stemming from
the absence of the self-efficacy of the individual in a personal,
academic and social sphere.
Crick & Dodge (1996) propose a model of social learning
and stress violent behavior as being behavior stemming from
problems linked to the individual’s process of processing in-
formation. According to their model, the process begins from
the receipt of social cues and proceeds as far as the expression
of violent behavior. It includes six stages: the selective encod-
ing of internal and social cues that cause a violent child to re-
ceive negative cues; the interpretation of these cues in a nega-
tive and hostile manner; a reduction in one’s ability to seek out
an appropriate response; lack of evaluation of so important a
response in the case of violent behavior; making an incorrect
decision that is not based on objective observation and proper
evaluation; and action that leads to violent behavior. In accor-
dance with this model, violent behavior will be linked to distor-
tions in each of the stages in the processing of information
(Dodge & Coie, 1987).
Whether the explanation emphasizes more the result of un-
desired behavior, the beliefs, the thoughts and processing of
information or one’s feelings, according to the cognitive-beha-
vioral approach—violent behavior is linked to the elements of
thought, feelings and behavior together.
In an attempt to examine the elements linked to violent be-
havior, Buss & Perry (1992) have developed a model that ex-
plains the tendency to develop violent behavior in accordance
with the cognitive-behavioral model, with reference to the
process of thought, feelings and behavior.
The thinking process, i.e. the cognitive element, includes the
hostile thoughts of an individual who conceives of the world
around him as being hostile. This cognitive element is linked to
negative feelings of anger, which constitute the emotional ele-
ment in the trend towards violent behavior. According to the
authors, hostile thoughts and negative feelings lead to the ex-
pression of violent behavior, which include two parts: violent
verbal behavior and violent physical behavior (Buss & Perry,
With reference to the hostile-cognitive element, it is linked to
continual negative thinking of the individual about his sur-
roundings (Anderson & Bushman, 2002). This negative think-
ing is characterized by a conception that the world is threaten-
ing and unfair, that people act out of selfish motives and cannot
be trusted (Buss, 1961). This element is express ed accordin g to
the model for social information processing by Dodge and his
colleagu es (Dodge, Laird , Lochman, & Zelli, 2002) in a hostile
interpretation of the cues received by the individual from his
surroundings. People with hostile thoughts will interpret situa-
tions in a negative manner, and will tend more to assign hostile
intentions to others and react with violence accordingly (Crick
& Dodge, 1994; Hubbard, Dodge, Cillessen, & Coie S chwartz,
2001). A number of studies have indicated a correlation be-
tween hostile thoughts and violent behavior among students
(Bandura et al., 2001; Crick & Dodge, 1994; Hubbard et al.,
The emotional element, anger, is an emotional reaction ac-
companied by physiological stimulation. Anger is stimulated by
frustration, provocation and, often, anxiety (Buss, 1961). In
addition, anger increases sensitivity to frustrating situations or
obstacles, stimulates assertive thoughts and can encourage ac-
tion against the threatening source (Cicchetti, Ackerman, &
Izard, 1995). Anger is thought to be a predictor of a tendency
for violent behavior (Arsenio, Cooperman, & Lover, 2000).
The element of behavior includes both physical and verbal
violen ce. Physical violence is defined as bodily harm of another
with the objective of causing pain to the other (Buss, 1961).
Verb al violen ce refers to a verb al message u tter ed to anot her, in
an attempt to incur mental pain, and damage another’s posit ion
and sel f-esteem (Infante, 1995) .
The tool developed by Buss & Perry (1992) enables the ex-
amination of violence as one parcel and to examine its overall
score or separate it into different components (hostility, anger,
verbal violence and physical violence), where each component
earns a separate score that enables it to be examined as an ele-
ment in itself.
In the presen t stud y, we have decid ed to examine th e element
of physical violence and the manner in which this violence is
linked to hostile thoughts and feelings of anger, both due to our
principal interest being in physical violence and the fact that the
OPEN ACCE SS
reliability of tools to examine verbal violence is poor (Weis-
burd, Rosenbaum, & Ronen, 2009; Ronen & Devik, 2009; Ro-
nen & Rosenbaum, 2010).
Degree of Religio sit y
Over recent years, we have been witness to a renewed awa-
kening of the contribution of religion and spirituality to human
behavior. Psychologists are beginning to recognize the idea that
religion and spirituality can contribute to an improvement of
wel l-being. Psychology has a traditionally negative position
towards spirituality; indeed, psychologists and psychiatrists
from Freud to Ellis have regarded religious orientation as being
“irrational” and “a mechanism for people that are unable to
cope with life” (Clay, 1996: p. 1).
In spite of this, there has been an increase over recent years
in studies that indicate the importance of religious faith in pro-
viding meaning to life and in improving one’s wel l-being. Spi-
rituality and religion may improve well-being (Witter, Stock,
Okun, & Haring, 1985), self-esteem (Falbo & Shepperd, 1986),
physical health (Gottlieb & Green, 1984) and satisfaction in
married l ife (Glenn & Weaver , 1978) .
The correlation between the degree of religiosity and mental
health & psychopathology has prompted much research (Al-
Issa, 2000; Maltby, Lewis & Day, 1999; Thorson, 1998). This
correlation can be seen to be complex, where various explana-
tions have been offered, such as “religiosity may repress the
symptoms and encourage conventional forms of thought and
behavior that are more socially accepted. This may provide
sources for a wider development of perspectives and a fuller
realization of individual capabilities” (Wulff, 1997: p. 244).
Many studies have indicated a positive correlation between
lack of spirituality and a number of negative psychological
situations, such as depression (Wright, Frost & Wisecarver,
1993), drug use (Maton & Zimmerman, 1992) and anxiety and
suicide (Gartner, Larson, & Allen, 1991).
Ellison (1991) attempted to explain how spirituality and reli-
giosity may promote happiness and well-being, in that religious
observan ce (e.g. attend ing chur ch services) may in crease soci al
integration and support. In addition, the development of a deep
belief in God may promote happiness by reducing stress and
improving strategies for coping. Moreover, religiosity and spi-
rituality may provide meaning, solidarity and goals in life.
It should be noted that the vast majority of research on this
subject has been conducted in the west, with participants main-
ly from Jewish and Christian populations. There have been few
studies on Muslims and Arabs. This correlation has not been
researched among Palestinian Arabs, and this study is consi-
dered to be pioneering in the research on Arab Muslims and
Christians who live in a Jewish country.
Studies undertaken around the world on Muslim populations
have indicated clear and positive correlations between religios-
ity and a strong sense of well-being (Hussein, 1988; Abdel-
Khalek, 2002, 2005; Alakandari, 2003; Suhail & Chaudhry,
2004), with less psychosomatic symptoms and more motivation
(Hussein, 1998), with less anxiety (Abdel-Khalek, 2002) and
with physical health and optimism (Abdel-Khalek & Naceur,
2007). One stu dy on t he corr elation b etween degree o f religio s-
ity and violence has been undertaken by Watkins (2003), where
the correlation between a high or low degree of religiosity and
five measures of violence was studied. Results revealed that
high grades in the degree of religiosity resulted in low grades in
the degr ee of violence.
Environmental resources include the individual’s social sup-
port system (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). This system is attri-
buted to all those individuals who have personal, social and
familial relationships with others (Sarason, Sarason, & Pierce,
1990), and it refers to four major types of support: informative,
instrumental, emotional and companionship support (Cohen &
Wills, 1985). These t ypes of suppo rt make it easier for t he indi-
vidual to cope with sources of stress (House, 1981).
Professional literature presents two major forms of influence
of social support on well-being. One form is the main effect,
where social support has a direct positive effect on an individu-
al’s well-being regardless of stress. The basic claim is that the
support has the power to develop and increase feelings of abili-
ty, self-esteem and self-ef ficacies. These feelings enable the
individual to successfully cope with life’s challenges. The
second form is the buffer effect, where social support has an
indirect effect on an individual’s well-bei ng via the reduction of
negative implications in the response to feelings of stress (An-
tonucci & Akiyama, 1994; Cohen & Wills, 1985). In this man-
ner, the support constitutes a coping strategy (Antonucci &
Social support can moderate stress by affecting first or
second impressions of an event (Cohen & Edwards, 1989).
When the individual gains access to a support network that is
available to him, it may suppress impressions of potential threat
stemming from the event, encourage the individual to believe in
his/her ability to cope with the event and/or encourage the use
of opportunistic coping strategies, such as: problem-solving and
positive re-evaluation (Cohen & Edwards, 1989; Cohen &
Variou s studies add ress the sign ificance of social suppo rt for
children and teenagers in situations of stress in general and
situations of war in particular. For children experiencing a crisis,
the famil y constitutes the main support system. During a crisis,
the family provides its members with feedback on feelings,
ideas and behavior. This determines the child’s understanding
of the nature and significance of a stressful environment
(Zeidner et al., 1993).
Approximately 80% of Jewish students and approximately
64% of Arab students in this study turn to parents or family
members during crises; approximately 25% of Jews and 50% of
Arabs turn to their teacher or someone on the school staff; ap-
proximately 16% of Jews and 38% of Arabs turn to school
counselors, and approximately 75% of teenagers turn to friends
when in distress (H ar el et al., 2004).
Aside from family support, friends’ and teachers’ support
also have a curbing effect on the psychological difficulties
stemming from war (Klingman, 2001; Klingman et al., 1993;
Swenson & Klingman, 1993; Zeidner et al., 1993). Studies by
Greenbaum, Erlich, & Toubiana (1993), examining the utiliza-
tion of sources of support among children during the Gulf War
revealed that utilization of support originating from parents and
friends is relatively higher than support originating at school
and from telephone hot li ne s .
While family support has greater importance during child-
hood, friends and non-family members become a more signifi-
cant source of support during teenage years (Cotterell, 1994).
Most teenagers turn to friends their own age more th an to their
OPEN ACCE SS 77
parents for shared entertainment, friendship and understanding
(Blyth, Hill, & Theil, 1982), and for feedback, practical infor-
mation and emotional support (Jaffe, 1998). A peer group
serves as a source for powerful social rewards, including pres-
tige, acceptance, status and popularity, which promote a tee-
nager’s self-esteem (Bishop & Inderbitzen, 1995). Relation-
ships with one’s peers during teenage years are more characte-
rized by intimacy and support than in early childhood (Jaffe,
1998); they play a crucial role in the promotion of normal psy-
chological development (Steinberg, 2002) and constitute a pro-
tective element during times of stress (Montemayor & Van
Chen & Wei’s study (2013) examines how social support of
peers mediates the correlation between school victimization and
wel l-being among 1650 junior high school students in Taiwan,
and later on examines how gender and ethnicity differ in reci-
procal relations of violence at school, social support and well-
being. Findings show that in general, students with a high level
of well-being are not significantly linked with victimization by
students in mediation of social support among peers.
Another study by Benhorin & McMahon (2008) examines
the effect o f social s uppo rt on the co rrelatio n between exp osure
to violence and aggressive behavior. Findings demonstrate the
negative effect of exposure to violence on aggressive behavior
and the comprehensive contribution of social support in these
relationships. Specifically, support from parents, teachers and
close friends has been found to be positively linked to lower
levels of aggressive behavior.
The term “self-control” describes behavior out of free choice,
while relinquishing more appealing behavior for the sake of
more desired behavior (Thoresen & Mahoney, 1974). This de-
finition comprises two aspects: free choice, i.e. behavior that
one chooses to express from the recognition that this behavior
is important. This choice is not due to pressure from one’s ex-
ternal surroundings or through lack of choice. And the second
aspect–choice between two opposing behaviors, where one has
a number of choices and must decide and select the more im-
portant (or efficient) behavior over the more desired behavior at
that particular moment (Ronen, 1997).
Rosenbaum (1993, 1998) describes self-control as a system
of cognitive, goal-oriented skills that enable people to act to
attain their goals, to overcome difficulties linked to thoughts,
feelings and behaviors; to delay gratification and cope with
According to Ronen & Rosenbaum (2001), the skill of self-
control will be actuated only when the individual faces different
obst acles that are d ifficult for h im to overco me and hamper t he
attainment of his goals. This means that his goals and the ob-
stacles in his way to attaining them are the ones that will deter-
mine whether he will actuate his skills of self-control. There-
fore, a teenager who does not see his aggressive behavior as
being a problem and who may even obtain reinforcement fro m
it, will not actuate his skills of self-control.
In the present study, the use of the term “self-control skills”
refers to the actuation of a group of skills to attain a desired
goal. This group includes: cognitions and self-instructions for
coping with various emotional and physiological responses, the
use of strategies for problem-solving, the ability to delay grati-
fication and the belief that one can control oneself during in-
ternal events (Rosenbaum, 1980).
In a number of studies conducted on children and t eenagers,
it was found that those characterized with skills of self-control
like delaying gratification, problem-solving and cognitive con-
struction express less aggressive behavior (Blair et al., 2000;
Ayduk et al., 2000; Denham, Kochanoff, & Whipple, 2004;
Gyurak & Ayduk, 2008; Weisbrod, 2007). In addition, it was
revealed that high levels of self-control are more linked with
success in social relations, with more adaptive emotional res-
ponses to pressure situations and with fewer reports on psy-
chopathology (Tangney, Baumeister, & Boone, 2004).
Studies by Agbaria, Ronen & Hamama (2012), examine the
correlation between self-control and the incidence of psycho-
pathological symptoms following the exposure of teenagers to
war. Findings point to the moderating contribution of skills of
self-control in the decrease of depression, anxiety and other
In a study examinin g th e corr elatio n between sel f-control and
anxiety/loneliness among siblings of children with cancer, a
significant correlation was found between self-control as a
coping skill and anxiety/loneliness as an emotional stress re-
sponse; i.e., siblings reporting on higher levels of self-control
experienced lower levels of anxiety and loneliness (Hamama,
Ronen, & Fei gi n, 2009) .
In another study examining the moderating effect of skills of
self-control among women with a history of physical, sexual or
emotional abuse, and with post-traumatic symptoms, it was
found that women characterized by high levels of self-control
reported on a lower intensity of post-traumatic signs in com-
parison to women with low self-control (Walter, Gunstad, &
Hobfoll, 2010). A study undertaken by Agbaria & Ronen
(2010), focused on aggressive behavior among Palestinian Arab
youths in Israel. 397 teenagers from grad es 7 to 12 part icipated
in the study. One of the research theories addressed personal
and social resources and examined the contribution of self-
control and social acceptance in the reduction of violence; re-
searchers found that skills of self-control will moderate the
correlation between subjecti ve well-bei ng and violence.
A study undertaken by Denson, Capper, Oaten, Friese &
Schofield (2011), examined the belief that self-control over
time might red uce anger an d violence as a res ponse to provoca-
tion. Participants comprised B.A./B.Sc. students who under-
went coaching on self-control for two weeks. Research data
found that violence was reduced among participants with high
levels of violent behavior, following coaching on self-control.
Var ious studies support the claim that skills of self-control
enable one to attain a balance between oneself, one’s environ-
ment and one’s goals. Those who succeed in this balance suc-
ceed in adapting themselves to environmental requirements and
in coping efficiently with situations of pressure and stress
(Rothbaum, Weisz, & Snyder, 1982).
Happiness, defined by philosophers as exaltation, is very dif-
ficult to pin down and define. Over recent decades, happiness
has been the center of many studies, with renewed classification
under more specific titles, such as subjective well-being, posi-
tive effect and satisfaction fro m life (Di ener, 2009).
Despite the resemblance between happiness and subjective
wel l-being, most writers avoid the first term due to the variety
of meanings to which it may refer (Diener, 2009). The most
OPEN ACCE SS
popular term in the field today—subjective well-being—refers
to the individual’s subjective appreciation of his quality of life
(Diener, 1984, 2009) and includes the elements of satisfaction
with life (cognitive element) and the correlation between posi-
tive and negative feelings (emotional element) (Diener, 2009).
The term gains significance primarily in situations of great
pressure and distress that may be detrimental to one’s well-
being (Hobfoll, 1989; Natving, Albrektsen, & Quarnstrom,
2001; Torsheim & Wold, 2001).
The term “subjective well-being” refers to the individual’s
subjective appreciation of his quality of life, his happiness and
gratification, as well as the quality of his inner experiences,
with reference to various areas of life (Diener, 1984). Subjec-
tive well-being includes elements like happiness, satisfaction,
gratification and quality of life; these elements refer to cogni-
tive and effective responses by an individual towards life expe-
riences (Diener, 1984; Veenhoven, 1991). Those with a high
sense of well-being feel more control over their lives and cope
effectively with life’s pressures, setting themselves goals in life
(Keyes & Ryff, 2000; Vee nhoven, 1991) .
A number of studies have indicated positive correlations be-
tween well-being and a sense of control over life (Veenhoven,
1991; McConnell et al., 2005), an ability to cope with pressures
and conflicts (Argyle, 1987) and a tendency to exp erience fe w-
er negative feelings (Fordyce, 1988). In addition, a positive
correlation was found between social acceptance and physical
and spiritual well-being (Bolger, Zuckerman, & Kessler, 2000;
Spiegel , Bloom, Kraemer , & Gottheil , 1989).
According to research literature, experiences with chronic
and stressful life events affect the manner in which one eva-
luates life satisfaction, as well as, correspondingly, with well-
being (Ash & Huebner, 2001; Headey & Wearing, 1989),
where there is a correlation between feelings of anxiety and
stress experienced as a result of stressful life events (political,
economic, social and familial) and a low sense of well-being
(Campbell, 1981). Several studies indicate a negative correla-
tion between life satisfaction and the development of post-
traumatic symptoms among different populations, e.g. veteran
soldiers (Merritt, Kashdan, Julian, & Uswatte, 2006), those
with a background of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) (Eglin-
ton & Cheung Chung, 2011) and those with a background of
drug use (Ouimette, Goodwin, & Brown, 2006).
One stud y examined th e co rrelat ion bet ween bei ng victims of
violence and feelings of well-being among teenagers. In this
study, students from 190 high schools, ranging in age from 13 -
19, participated. Research results showed that boys and girls
who were victims of violence reported on lower levels of life
satisfaction (Cal lahan, Tolman, & Saunders, 2003).
Another study focused on aggressive behavior among Pales-
tinian Arab youths in Israel. In this study, 397 teenagers in
grades 7 to 12 participated, and the correlation between well-
being and violence was studied. Results showed a negative
correlation between the two (Agbaria & Ronen, 2010).
Hypot he sis
There is a negative correlation between self-control and
There is a negat ive correlation b etween su pport and physical
There is a negative correlation between degree of religiosity
and ph ysical violence.
There is a negative correlation between well-being and
225 Pal estinian Arab teen agers livin g in Israel p articipat ed in
this study. The participants study in grades 8 and 9, in state
schools in the northern part of The Triangle. We know that in
the northern part of the Triangle resides a Muslim population
defined for the most part as a traditional society with interme-
diate so cioeconomic stat us. It is important to note that the sam-
pling method was convenience sampling. Approximately 80%
of participants were grade 8 students, with approximately 20%
in grade 9; 58.2% of participants were male and 41.8% were
Subjecti v e Happiness Scale: (Lyubomirsky & Lepper, 1999)
On the 4-item sub jective h appi ness scale, p articip ants cir cled
the number that best characterized them on a 7-point Likert
scale rangin g from 1 (ch aracterizi ng low levels o f happin ess) to
7 (characterizing high levels of happiness); for example, "In
general I consider myself not a very happy person (1) to “a very
happy person” (7) or “Compared to most of my peers I consider
myself less happy” (1) to “very h appy” (7).
1) Attitudes Regarding Religion Questionnaire
This questionnaire was developed by Kendler, Liu, Gardner,
McCullough, Larson and Prescott, 2003. The q uest ionnai re was
translated into Arabic and adapted to a Muslim Arab population;
5 items wer e deleted from the question naire and 12 items were
added. The validity of the questionnaire was examined by 5
judges, and the pr eliminary format was corrected until the final
format was attained. Cronbach’s alpha values for the different
dimensions obtained were high and ranged from (α = 0.86 to
The questionnaire examines various Attitudes on religion and
includes 63 items expressing 5 measures of positions on reli-
gion: religiosity in general (spirituality), social religiosity, for-
giveness, God as Judge and lack of desir e for revenge.
Each participant was asked to evaluat e every one of the ite ms
on a scale of 5 levels (1-never; 2-rarely; 3-sometimes; 4-oft en;
5-alway s). The present study made use only of the first dimen-
sion which included 31 items, and which reflected more ele-
ments of spirituality and understanding of one’s place in the
universe, in addition to the contribution of the correlation with
God as expressed in activities in daily life and during crises.
2) Adolescence Self Control Scale Questionnaire
This questionnaire was originally developed by Rosenbaum
(1980) in order to evaluate the individual differences in skills of
self-control. The questionnaire examines self-reporting on the
use of cognition (eg. self-instructions) and the implementation
of problem-solving strategies to cope with emotional and phy-
siological responses. The questionnaire was adapted for child-
ren and t eenagers b y Rosen baum & Ronen (1991), and includes
32 items expressi ng d ifferen t p arameters in skill s of self-control:
repressing gratification, getting over pain, planning abilities,
use of self-instructions, etc. The participant would evaluate
each one of the items on a six-level Likert scale, from (1-“very
uncharacteristic of me” to 6-“very characteristic of me”). The
questionnaire was reviewed according to a scale ranging from
OPEN ACCE SS 79
(−3) to (3) points, representing the degree at which the partici-
pant evaluates the item as being characteristic of him. The
quest ionnaire contained 9 reverse items.
In a test on qu estionn aire r eliab il ity with teen agers an d adult s
(Rosenbaum, 1998), Cronbach’s alpha values for adults were
found to be relatively high (0.87), where for children they wer e
lower (0.69) (Hamama, 1996). In actuality, the older the child,
the higher the alpha val ues.
3) Soc ial Support Questionnaire
This questionnaire was evaluated using the Interpersonal
Support Evaluate List (ISEL) developed by Cohen, Mermel-
strin, Karmarck & Hoberman (1985), concerning the perceived
availability of potential social resources. The original scale
consists of 40 items, with 4 subscales (Appraisal, Belonging,
Tangible Support and Self-esteem Support). The reliability of
the ISEL is α = 0.90. In this study, we administered a brief
version of this scale (12 items), including the first 3 subscales
mentioned above, with 4 items in each. For example: “I feel
that there is no one I can share my most private worries and
fears with”. The items were rated on a 4-point scale ranging
from (1) definitely false to (4) definitely true. Higher scores
reflected greater perceived support.
4) Violence Q uestionnaire ( A GQ)
This questionnaire was developed by Buss & Perry (1992),
to evaluate the various elements in the trend towards violent
behavio r among teen agers. The questionnaire contains 28 items
testin g 4 element s of violence: physical violence (8 items), e.g.
“If I am sufficiently provoked, I may hit another kid”; verbal
violence (5 items), e.g.: “When other kids provoke me, I tell
them what I think about them”; anger (7 items), e.g.: “Some-
times I feel like I’m going to explode”; hostility (8 items), e.g.:
“I know that other kids talk about me behind my back”. Each
participant was asked to evaluate to what degree each of the
items were ch aracteristic of him, vi a a 5-level Likert s cale, from
(1) “very much disagree” to (5) “very much agr ee”.
For each participant, a grade was calculated for each of the
scales repr esenting th e elements of vio lence (ph ysical violence,
verbal violence, anger and hostility). The grade was calculated
as an average of all of the items included in the relevant sub-
scale, takin g in to accou n t reverse i tems (3 revers e it e ms). In t he
evaluation of questionnaire reliability in Hebrew, a Cronbach
alpha val ue of α = 0.77 was found for “hostility”, α = 0.78 was
found for anger, and α = 0.72 for verbal and physical violence
The research questionnaires were approved by the Ministry
of Education’s Chief Scientist, and then the questionnaires were
distributed at designated schools. With the approval of school
management, a letter was forwarded to parents explaining the
objective of the research, and they were asked to approve or
disapprove of their children’s participation in filling out the
questionnaire. In the last stage, the primary researcher visited
the schools on a regular study day. He entered the classes and
explained the objective in filling out the questionnaires to the
students, stressing that everything would be anonymous and
that the findings would be utilized for research only. The level
of participation was very high, with all students present agree-
ing to fill out the questionnaire. The questionnaires were dis-
tributed in Arabic (they had been translated at an earlier stage
and uti lized for previous research).
Statist ical anal yses were cond ucted in order to ch eck correla-
tions among the study’s variables and to test the research hy-
potheses. Table 1 describ es Means, Standard Deviation, Range
and Reliability of Research tools.
As one can see from th e Table 2, clear, negative co rrelati ons
were found between physical violence and the other variables
(self-control, religiosity, happiness and social support); for
examp le, there is a clear, negative correlation between self-
contr ol and physical vio lence (r = −0.44, p < 0.01) and a nega-
tive correlation between religiosity and physical violence (r =
−.51, p < .01).
To examine the research hypotheses, Pearson correlations
were calculated and hierarchical regression analyses were con-
The first hypothesis focused on the correlation between self
control and physical violence, and hierarchical regression ana-
lyses were conducted here as well. It was found that self control
clearly contributes to decrease Physical Violence (BETA =
−.14, p < 0.05). This confirmed the first hypothesis.
The second hypothesis focused on the correlation between
social support and Physical violence, and hierarchical regres-
sion analyses were conducted here as well. In the hierarchical
regression analysis that examined Physical violence as a de-
pendent variable in relation to social support, it was found that
it clearl y contri butes to the explan ation o f the varian ce in Phys-
ical violence (BETA = −.23, p < .01). This confirmed the
second hypothesis. See Table 3.
Means, standard deviation, range and reliability of research tools (N-
Variable Mean SD M edian Range Reliability
Happiness 4.93 1.25 5.00 6.00 .59
Social Support 3.13 .73 3.16 3.33 .71
Religiosity 4.03 .94 4 .20 4.00 . 91
Self-control 3.88 .94 3.87 5.00 .81
Anger 2.81 .83 2.85 3.86 . 53
Physical violence 2.39 1.01 2.44 4.00 .81
Hostility 2.88 .85 2.83 3.83 .53
Verbal violence 2.9 7 .79 3.00 4.00 .50
Correlations between the variables, based on Pears o n correlatio ns.
Support 2 Religiosity
3 Self Control
2 .62** ---
3 .45** .64** ---
4 .44** .45** .48** ---
5 −.47** −.54** −.51** −.44** ---
Note: *p < .05; **p < .005; ***p < .001; N = 225.
OPEN ACCE SS
Regression Analysis of Physical violence.
Beta Adjusted R-square
Step 1 .11
Step 2 .41
Social support −.23**
Notes: *p < .05, **p < .01, ***p < .001. Sex: 0-ma le, 1-female; Grade: 0-grade 8,
The third hypothesis focused on the correlation between reli-
giosity and Physical violence. From Tabl e 2 (correlations), one
can see that there is a clear, negative correlation between reli-
giosity and Physical violence. In the hierarchical regression
analysis, it was found that religiosity clearly contributes to the
explanation of the vari ance i n P hysi cal vio len ce (BETA = −.15,
p < .05). From here, we can conclude that the third hypothesis
is con firmed.
The fourth research hypothesis addressed the correlation be-
tween happiness and Physical violence. Table 2 indicates a
clear, negative correlation between happiness and Physical
violen ce, a clear, posi tive correlatio n between negative feeli ngs
and Physical violence. In the hierarchical regression analysis
conducted on Physical violence, there was a clear contribution
to the explanation of the variance in Physical violence (BETA
= −.16, p < .05). From here, we can conclude that the research
hypothesis was confirmed.
This analysis found that sex contributes to explaining the va-
riance in Physical violence. The contribution of gender was
statistically significant. And found that among boys, the level
of Physical violence is higher than among girls (β = −.31, p
The present study was conducted among Arab junior high
and high school students in Israel, and for the first time, ex-
amined violence among Arab students, with reference to the
variables of well-being, social support, religiosity and self-
contr ol. In gen eral , one can say that th e presen t stud y’s findings
support most of the theories. In addition, they correspond to
and reinforce findings from previous studies obtained among
other populations in Israel and across the world. For example,
(Ronen, 2003, 2005; Baron, 2003; Ozden & Koksoy, 2009;
Stuart & Holtzworth-Munroe, 20 05) .
The results of this study point to a clear, negative correlation
between skills of self-control and Physical violence; i.e. it was
found that among teenagers who exhibit skills of self-control,
the level of Physical violence was lower, in addition to the me-
diating effect of self-control on the correlation between expo-
sure to Physical violence in the family and Physical violence.
This finding is consistent with other studies in which a negative
correlation was found between Physical violence and self-con-
trol (Agbaria et al., 2013).
A possible explanation for the finding is linked to the manner
in which the skills of self-control are actioned , i.e. the abilit y of
the teenager to identify automatic thoughts, to use diversions
and alternative thinking, and to find alternative solutions which
are skills of self-control, will lead him to choose controlled,
planned, adaptive and less impulsive behavior. An additional
explanation relies on Dodge et al.’s model for social informa-
tion processing (Crick & Dodge, 1996; Dodge & Coie, 1987).
According to this model, the ability to process information in a
more balanced (less distorted) manner is dependent upon ap-
plying th e appropriate in terpretation t o social and internal clues
encoded by the individual. This interpretation will lead to a
choice of controlled and adaptive behavior. The choice of this
behavior rather than physically violent behavior is an expres-
sion of the application of skills of self-control.
Degree of Religiosity
This study’s findings indicated a clear, negative correlation
between religiosity and Physical violence. Research findings
correspond to previous findings in research conducted on the
subject (Koeing, McCullough, & Larson, 2001; Kaldestad,
1996; Thoresen & Harris, 2002; Khodayarifard, Ghobaribonab,
& Shokohiyekta, 2000; Francis et al., 2004; Shehni, Yeylagh,
Movahhed, & Shokrkon, 2002; Zimmeran, McDermut, & Mat-
tia, 2000; Amrai, Zalani, Arfai, & Sharifian, 2011).
This correlation between religiosity and Physical violence
can be explained via various behavioral and cognitive ap-
proaches. According to this approach, an individual’s behavior
is a product of interpretations he applies to events he expe-
riences. Therefore, every event that occurs obtains an interpre-
tation that awakens different feelings, and these lead to beha-
vior (Beck, 1995). From this explanation, we can conclude that
religious people sustain beliefs and schema that provide them
with a great deal of meanin g in life–meaning that makes it eas-
ier for them to apply interpretations that will result in a calmer
life management, and schema that can assist them in attaining
self-control and well-being. In a preliminary qualitative study
on a religious teenage population, the following schema arose:
“In the end, God will help me”; “I don’t permit myself beha-
viors that might anger God”; “Mo re acceptance an d patien ce in
crises will earn me more divine rewards”, together with many
schema based on chapters from the Koran or sayings by the
prophet Muhammed, such as “Look for seventy excuses for
your brother before you judge him”; “Strength is not seen
through force but rather in holding back when angry”; “One
must accep t all of God’s decrees” (Agbaria & Wattad, 2011).
These schema render t ime an integr al portion of the believing
person’s cognitive-behavioral repertoire and they will begin to
influence and guide his behavior in various situations. In addi-
tion to the behavioral portion of religious belief expressed in
doing good deeds, prayers, visits to mosques, religious ceremo-
nies, donations, classes and the social support represented in
these activities, they can improve one’s spirit and increase a
sense of belonging while providing meaning to life.
This study’s findings reveal a clear, negative correlation
OPEN ACCE SS 81
between social support and Physical violen ce. This finding is
consistent with previous research in the field, where most report
on a positive contribution to social support in an improvement
in mental health and reduction in levels of violence (Irwin,
LaGory, Ritchey, & Fitzpatrick; 2008; Marroquin, 2011) and
suicidal thoughts (Galambos, Barker, & Krahn, 2006; Harris &
Molock, 2000; Paykel, 1994; Stice, Ragan, & Randall, 2004;
Talaei, F ayyazi, & Ardani, 2009; Travis, Lyness, Shields, King,
& Cox, 2004).
Social support is linked to an increase in the sense of one’s
belon ging, where it is likely to d ecrease the feeling of pr essure
through a response to the need for a bond with others via the
distraction from worries linked to the situation or via alleviation
in one’s mood (Cohen & Wills, 1985).
Professional literature presents two principal types of effect
of social support on well-being. One is the main effect, acco rd-
ing to which social support has a direct positive effect on an
individual’s well-being regardless of pressure situations. The
basic claim is that support has the power to develop and in-
crease feelings of ability, self-worth or self-efficacies. These
feelings enable the individual to successfully cope with life’s
challenges. The second type is the buffer effect, according to
which social support has an indirect effect on the individual’s
wel l-being, via the decrease of negative implications in re-
sponse to feelings of pressure (Antoucci & Akiyama, 1994;
Cohen & Wills, 1985). In this manner, social support consti-
tutes a coping strategy (Antonucci & Akiyama, 1994).
Social support can mediate pressu re by affectin g preliminar y
or secondary assessments of an event (Cohen & Edwards,
1989). When the individual sees the support network as being
available to him, it may suppress assessments of potential
threats stemming fro m the even t; to encourage th e indi vidual to
believe in his abilit y to cope with the even t and/or to encou rage
use of adaptive coping strategies, such as: problem-solving and
positive reassessment (Cohen & Edwards, 1989; Cohen &
McKay, 1984). Therefore, and according to Lazarus & Folk-
man’s model (1984), social support is conceived as an envi-
ronmental resource that can assist in coping with pressure and
difficult life situations.
Study results reveal a negative correlation between well-be-
ing and violence. This finding adds to the knowledge accumu-
lated in previous studies, which have pointed to an inverse cor-
relation between well-being and violence among teenagers
(Farrell & Bruce, 1997; Agbaria et al., 2013). A possible ex-
planation for this finding is based on the significance found in
the level of happiness in the acceleration of flexible thinking
that leads to efficiency in problem-solving, to self-control, to
thinking ahead, and to caution in risky situations (Aspinwall,
1998; Isen & Reeve, 2005). In other words, positive feelings
contribute to less impulsive and more controlled and planned
behavior. In addition, previous studies (Aresenio et al., 2000)
reveal that positi ve feelings decrease fru stratio n and anxiet y, i.e.
happy teenagers can better cope with frustration. They can de-
velop social and interpersonal skills that serve as a defense
against frus trating an d provocative events.
In conclusion, study findings point to the contribution of a
number of resources in mediating violence among Arab tee-
nagers. The research sheds light on the significance o f personal
resources like self-control, religiosity and well-being, together
with environmental resources like social support, in a decrease
in the levels of violence. These study findings provide a theo-
retical contribution to knowledge accumulated in reference to
violence among teenagers and students, alongside a contribu-
tion to its implementation, expressed in the development of
coaching programs and programs on the use of skills that stress
the importance of developing self-control, happiness and the
developing of means to attain social support, together with an
emphasis on the significance of attaining various religious val-
ues to improve social behavior and decrease the tendency for
A number of factors limit the generalizability of this study.
One of them is linked to the sampling. This study is based on a
convenience sample that is not probabilistic and includes Mus-
lim Arab teenagers from The Triangle only. The Triangle re-
gion in Israel constitutes approximately 20% of the total Mus-
lim Arab population. The sampling does not include representa-
tion of Christians, Druze and Bedouin (Central Bureau of Sta-
tistics, 2009) and therefore it is r ecommended t o undert ake this
study on a more representative sampling in future.
In addition, the present study utilizes self-report question-
naires. These questionnaires provide the student’s perspective,
but other elements, like groups of parents or peers may provide
different information. In the present study, all study variables
involve the teenager’s personal, internal elements. Thoughts
and feelings cannot be evaluated via the teenager’s external
environment. However, one must remember that the basis of
self-reporting is limited and points to a tendency only. There-
fore it is recommended in future to utilize additional research
tools, such as questionnaires to teachers and peer groups.
Another limitation linked to the aspect of self-report question-
naires t ouches on social desirability.
Continued studies may refine a portion of the findings in this
study and may shed light on the relevant issues in this study,
such as: economic status and study achievements.
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