Social values of masculinity and honor fuel contact with mafia-type groups


Adherence to masculine honour among young Italian men is a strong indication they are likely to engage in contact with the mafia-type groups, new research led by a University of Kent psychologist has shown.

The research, conducted by Dr Giovanni Travaglino, of the University's School of Psychology and Dr Libby Drury of Birkbeck, University of London, reveals that masculine honour-related values among young men in Southern Italy are likely to play a key role in steering them towards contact with criminal organisation members.

The findings may also prove useful in understanding why some individuals engage with other criminal actors, such as terrorist groups and gangs, and inform education programmes aimed at preventing young people's involvement with such groups.

Criminal organisations such as the mafia or Camorra emphasise their adherence to honour and masculinity to gain consensus among those sections of the population who endorse related values.

Previous research by Dr Travaglino showed that young adults and adolescents who endorse values of masculinity and honour also report lower intentions to oppose criminal organisations, a phenomenon known as omertà in Italy.

Now, in this latest research, Dr Travaglino studied a sample of adolescents over a period of five months and found that participants who reported higher levels of adherence to values of masculinity and honour were more likely to gravitate to actual contact with members of criminal organisations.

The research also demonstrated that contact with criminal organisations is associated with a more romanticised view of these criminal groups. Young adults and adolescents who experience more frequent contact with criminal organisation members are more likely to perceive those members as 'embodying norms of honour and masculinity and as being more embedded within the social fabric of the region', the study found.

The research, entitled Connected guys: Endorsement of masculine honour predicts more frequent contact with members of criminal organisations (Giovanni A. Travaglino, School of Psychology, University of Kent and Libby Drury, Department of Organizational Psychology, Birkbeck, University of London) is published in the journal European Journal of Social Psychology. See:


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Notes to editors

Established in 1965, the University of Kent – the UK's European university – now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome. It has been ranked 22nd in the Guardian University Guide 2018 and 25th in the Complete University Guide 2018, and in June 2017 was awarded a gold rating, the highest, in the UK Government's Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, it is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

In the National Student Survey 2016, Kent achieved the fourth highest score for overall student satisfaction, out of all publicly funded, multi-faculty universities. Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium.

The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.

Kent has received two Queen's Anniversary prizes for Higher and Further Education.

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