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Can Identity Buffer Against the Detrimental Effects of Threat? The Case of the Qatar Blockade

Can Identity Buffer Against the Detrimental Effects of Threat? The Case of the Qatar Blockade fpsyg-13-750471 March 30, 2022 Time: 11:51 # 1 ORIGINAL RESEARCH published: 30 March 2022 doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.750471 Can Identity Buffer Against the Detrimental Effects of Threat? The Case of the Qatar Blockade 1† 2,3† 1 1 Azzam Amin , Jasper Van Assche , Mohamed Abdelrahman , Darragh McCashin , 1 4 Duaa Al-Adwan and Youssef Hasan 1 2 Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, Doha, Qatar, Department of Developmental, Personality and Social Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium, Center for Social and Cultural Psychology, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Bruxelles, Belgium, Psychology Program, Department of Social Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, Qatar University, Doha, Qatar In 2017, the blockade of Qatar Gulf states caused a plethora of effects on the country. This paper sought to examine the resulting threat effects of this blockade in terms of Edited by: lowered self-esteem and well-being, and the potential buffering effects of an overarching Qiang Shen, Zhejiang University of Technology, identity. Using self-report questionnaire data from Qatari secondary school students China (N = 1,410), multiple moderated mediation models investigated the predictive effects Reviewed by: of youngsters’ perceived threat, via self-esteem, on their well-being, and the mitigating Cicero Roberto Pereira, roles herein of, respectively, national, Gulf region, and Arab identity. Perceived threat Federal University of Paraíba, Brazil Rosa Scardigno, was indeed related to lower well-being via lower self-esteem, and this relationship was University of Bari Aldo Moro, Italy equally strong for those low and high in social identity. In terms of the three facets of *Correspondence: identity, the overarching Gulf identity seems the most predictive, and it even (marginally Mohamed Abdelrahman significantly) buffers the negative relationship between threat and reduced self-esteem. mkk.abdelrahman@gmail.com orcid.org/0000-0001-8739-1670 Keywords: perceived threat, national identity, self-esteem, well-being, Qatar blockade These authors have contributed equally to this work and share first authorship INTRODUCTION Specialty section: In 1981, six Arab countries (the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Kingdom of Bahrain, the This article was submitted to United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Oman) signed an agreement to establish the Gulf Cooperation Personality and Social Psychology, a section of the journal Council (GCC). This charter contributed significantly to the stability in the region., the GCC region Frontiers in Psychology has even been considered the most stable entity of the Middle East region (Bianco and Stansfield, 2018). The fundamental principles of constructing this entity were to promote economic, financial, Received: 30 July 2021 Accepted: 03 March 2022 and cultural cooperation, to enhance social ties between people, and to foster political stability and Published: 30 March 2022 security within the region (Nakhleh, 1986). Citation: From a social identity perspective, the charter also helped to facilitate an integrated entity among Amin A, Van Assche J, the Gulf states and its citizens. It enabled people in all Gulf states to develop a shared identity known Abdelrahman M, McCashin D, as “Khaleeji’ identity” (Al-Misned, 2016). Historically, this overarching Gulf identity had been Al-Adwan D and Hasan Y (2022) Can formed long before the separate Gulf states, and their according national identities, emerged (Allam Identity Buffer Against the Detrimental and Karolak, 2020). In relation to social ties, intermarriage across GCC countries is common. Effects of Threat? The Case of the As a result, the existence of extended families across these six countries produced similarities in Qatar Blockade. many aspects of life spanning culture, identity, music, and poetry. In addition, GCC citizens have Front. Psychol. 13:750471. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.750471 travel privileges to facilitate free movement between member states without visa requirements Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 1 March 2022 | Volume 13 | Article 750471 fpsyg-13-750471 March 30, 2022 Time: 11:51 # 2 Amin et al. Identity, Threat, and Qatar Blockade (Alshihaby, 2015). Therefore, these factors indicate that goods and services, in addition to the social and familial GCC citizens perceived themselves as relatively united and interconnectedness of Gulf states, immeasurable challenges with a common identity sharing many key characteristics emerged for the Qatari population. The Qatari National Human (Al-Khouri, 2010). Rights Committee (QNHRC) in 2017 reported that the blockade had instilled a sense of fear due to the fragmentation of The 2017 Blockade of Qatar families (due to border closures), created risks of adverse Aside from the geopolitical importance of the landscape, the psychological outcomes, and caused irreparable damage between Gulf region is undergoing considerable political and social once-intertwined Gulf cultures and societies. Undoubtedly, the transformations caused by several key trends in recent times, feelings of threat accompanying the blockade may pose a serious including the Arab Spring, economic transitions, and shifting challenge to the self-esteem and the well-being of Qatari people. demographics. The state of Qatar—a small peninsula within Nonetheless, these psychological consequences of intergroup the Arabian Gulf—is a traditional Muslim collectivist society conflicts in the Gulf region remain poorly understood within the with established gender segregation norms (e.g., separate boys literature. The particular characteristics of this blockade present a and girls schools; Bahry and Marr, 2005); but with state unique opportunity to understand intergroup conflict within an commitments to harmoniously modernize the country with understudied region. ambitious development strategies at national and international levels, such as the hosting of the FIFA World Cup 2022. High The Detrimental Effects of Threat levels of social security, extensive public and private investments, openness to globalization and rapid industrialization have Research on (perceived) intergroup conflict has typically focused typified the nature of Qatar’s development in recent decades on effects relating to stressors that may exacerbate conflict, (Dogan Akkas and Camden, 2020). Such developments have also physicality, territory, power; in addition to restrictions for civil led to the emergence of regional competitiveness, with Qatar liberties and human rights (Carriere et al., 2020). For instance, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) regularly competing with previous studies on the European continent have indicated that each other to promote their active contributions to international threat is related to greater levels of prejudice [see e.g., Van Assche society (Ennis, 2018). As a result, it has been suggested that the et al. (2018) for samples from Netherlands and Germany] and to success of Qatar in different fields such as sport can foster jealousy lower levels of well-being [see Schmid and Muldoon (2015) for (Gulf Times, 2017). a Northern Irish sample]. In the latter context, this detrimental Although the GCC entity has maintained stability and effect of threat was only for those who had prior experience cohesion since its inception, the political relationships have with the particular political conflict or with the co-occurring encountered some tensions among the allied countries. For violence. Yet, there is a distinct lack of research outside these example, there was a sovereignty dispute between Bahrain, so-called WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Qatar and the Hawar Islands in 1936, which was peacefully Democratic) contexts, and on the potential role of perceived resolved in 2001 via the International Court of Justice (Wiegand, threat for well-being and self-esteem (a well-known proxy of well- 2012). Similarly, political tension resulted in a border dispute being) in young adults where such individuals do not have prior between Qatar and Saudi Arabia in 1992 and 1994 (Okruhlik and experience of conflicts, as is the case in the Qatari blockade. Conge, 1999). Nonetheless, the GCC overcame these disputes and The distinctive factors within the Qatari blockade are maintained the strong ties among the Gulf states. difficult to situate within the current perceived intergroup threat However, on 5th June 2017, to much regional and literature. This is due to a number of factors, chiefly the absence international shock, the Gulf States of the Kingdom of of violence, and the uniquely impactful role of social media in Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom of Bahrain, the United Arab communicating some of the psychological effects of the blockade Emirates; and Egypt all severed diplomatic relations with Qatar. in young adults—living in an increasingly globalized Qatar— Given the cooperation of the Gulf region in the past, this blockade who have no direct experience of political conflict or violence was regarded as unprecedented; and brought with it a cascade of (Alkaabi and Soliman, 2017; El-Masri et al., 2020). Moreover, effects across many levels of society. Sophisticated cyberattacks over 50,000 citizens from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the on Qatari state media implicated Qatari stakeholders across a Kingdom of Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates lived in range of politically sensitive allegations. Following this, a 13- Qatar prior to the blockade, and significant overlapping familial, point list of maximalist demands were given to Qatar (Ulrichsen, sporting, commercial and political ties existed across the Gulf 2020)—itself underpinned by a narrative of Qatari involvement (Zahlan, 2016). in terrorist activity and corruption (Milton-Edwards, 2020). For The largely unforeseen and immediate severing of these ties example, the demands included: closing of Qatari-run media has never been experienced by the so-called generation Z of such as Al Jazeera, ceasing military cooperation with Turkey, Qatari citizens (born from 1996 onward). Given the overlapping severing alleged ties with terrorist organizations and the hosting ties held by young Qatari adults across Gulf groups, it is unclear of their representatives within Qatar, and paying compensation how the functionality of the perceived threats from the blockade to the blockading Gulf states. would potentially affect individual self-esteem and well-being, Despite a willingness to find a resolution, Qatar did not wish depending on the commonality Qataris feel with other Gulf state to accept the accusations nor the demands of the blockade. citizens. It should be noted that perceived threats of any kinds Owing to considerable dependence on importations of key may not adversely impact well-being in all contexts. There is a Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 2 March 2022 | Volume 13 | Article 750471 fpsyg-13-750471 March 30, 2022 Time: 11:51 # 3 Amin et al. Identity, Threat, and Qatar Blockade body of research that has demonstrated the important positive in Qatari young adults are comparatively frequent (Al-Attiyah relationship between one’s social identity and perceived threats. and Nasser, 2016; Schoenbach et al., 2018). Other data from undergraduate samples reported higher self-rated levels of mental Social Identity as a Potential Buffer health and well-being (Abdel-Khalek, 2013). However, a recent Whereas the threat by the blockade can have a negative impact cross-cultural telephone survey of non-migrant Qataris and on Qatari’s self-esteem and well-being, they can find solace in migrants found that the former had lower levels of depression their social identity. In particular, this paper adopts a theoretical that was comparable to Western epidemiology (between 4.2% background initially framed by social identity theory (Tajfel et al., and 6.6%; see Khaled, 2019; Khaled and Gray, 2019). Within 1979) which posits that individuals’ sense of identity is based on Qatari primary healthcare, it is estimated that approximately their group membership(s), and can thus heavily influence other one-quarter of attendees had at least one psychiatric diagnosis key psychological factors (including self-esteem, group pride, and (Ghuloum et al., 2011; Bener et al., 2015). However, much of even well-being). Social identity theory places the origins of social this data is using smaller samples from college-aged participants identity within the domains of both cognitive and motivational or older adults in timeframes that predated the Qatari blockade factors—these can influence group members to support or detach (Ciftci et al., 2013; Zolezzi et al., 2017). from their group. Indeed, one of the key contributions of social To date, there exists no high-quality dataset regarding identity theory is the replicated finding of ingroup favoritism the well-being, self-esteem, identity or perception of threat across different conditions (Brewer, 1979). among young citizens in Qatar, and no research regarding Of course, much depends on how broadly one defines one’s the effects of the blockade on these psychological variables. ingroup to be. To the extent that one identifies as Qatari, this Nonetheless, the National Mental Health Strategy for Qatar, national identity might be related to stronger preference for Changing Minds, Changing Lives 2013–18 has identified a Qatar over other Gulf countries (and their citizens). Nevertheless, need for a population health approach using an integrated such national identity and ingroup favoritism has been shown system of care, with mental health and well-being named as to elevate one’s self-esteem (Rubin and Hewstone, 1998). To a priority area. This study aims to fill this gap by examining the extent that one identifies with the overarching category of a model where threat and identity additively and interactively Gulf states (i.e., “Khaleeji”), this superordinate common ingroup predict well-being via self-esteem. In other words, we propose identity (e.g., Dovidio and Gaertner, 2000) might be related to a moderated mediation model with threat as predictor, well- a more broad-minded perspective on the intergroup tensions being as outcome, self-esteem as mediator, and social identity as following the blockade. As such, this overarching identity might moderator. Indeed, we first predict that threat will be negatively not only be positively related to self-esteem and well-being, it related to well-being via lower levels of self-esteem (mediation might even buffer against the detrimental effects of perceived hypothesis). Secondly, anchored in the Common Ingroup threat. Exactly because this supranational identity incorporates a Identity hypothesis within Social Identity Theory, we hypothesize strong sense of connection with the other Gulf states, i.e., the very that national (Qatari), supra-regional (Khaleeji/Gulf ), and ethno- perpetrators imposing the blockade and potentially causing the cultural/religious (Arab) identities will be positively related to feelings of threat, we hypothesize that this level of identification self-esteem and well-being, and the supra-regional identity in has the strongest potential to buffer against threat effects. Finally, particular might exert a buffering effect on the negative threat- to the extent that one identifies with the even larger category of self-esteem association (moderation hypothesis). Arabs globally, this social identity facet might relate positively to self-esteem and well-being, but its potential buffering effect on the impact of post-blockade threat perceptions might be limited, MATERIALS AND METHODS given the broadness of the identification that spans much wider than the conflict area per se. Sample Size and Participants To sum up, in the context of social identity theory, we According to the annual statistics of education in the State put forward that some individuals may more readily identify of Qatar (2018), the total number of secondary schools is 62 with their perceived ingroup in an attempt to cope with the (33 are secondary schools for boys), and the total number of stressors originating from perceived outgroup threats (Haslam Qatari students in the secondary schools is 13,946 (7,305 are et al., 2005). The unique Qatari situation of contact between females). Given that there are eight municipalities in Qatar, the the sub-groups making up a nation (or set of nations) authors listed the secondary schools located in each municipality could lead to different levels of identification (national, supra- and randomly selected the schools. The results were a total of regional, and ethno-cultural/religious), which, can be a source twenty-six schools (13 of which were for boys) . Following that, of consolation in the face of the potentially detrimental impact the targeted number of the participants of each school was 60 of threat on self-esteem and well-being (Gaertner et al., 1996; students (20 participants per grades 10, 11, and 12 each). Dovidio and Gaertner, 2000). We performed additional analyses that also included gender at the school level in the model, but there were no differences in self-esteem and well-being between The Current Study boys- and girls-schools (b = 0.04, p = 0.43 for self-esteem; b = 0.05, p = 0.59 for The current study was set up against the backdrop of the well-being), nor were there cross-level interaction effects between individual threat Qatari blockade. We specifically focused on Qatari youth, as and school-level gender (b = 0.00, p = 0.93 for self-esteem; b = 0.01, p = 0.77 for previous research demonstrated that mental health problems well-being). Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 3 March 2022 | Volume 13 | Article 750471 fpsyg-13-750471 March 30, 2022 Time: 11:51 # 4 Amin et al. Identity, Threat, and Qatar Blockade Data were collected via a self-report paper questionnaire The Cronbach’s Alpha for the Gulf and Arab identity scales was between November 2019 and February 2020. Eligible participants 0.87 and 0.83, respectively. had to be Qatari citizens from public secondary schools in Qatar. Self-Esteem A representative sample of 1,500 participants was recruited using A 10-item scale of Rosenberg (1965) was used. Items included convenience sampling, and 50 incomplete responses and 40 non- questions such as “At times I think I am no good at all (reverse Qatari respondents were excluded. The final sample included coded)” and “I take a positive attitude toward myself.” Each item 1,410 participants, of which 40% were males (M = 16.98, age was rated on a 7-point Likert scale ranging from 1 = strongly SD = 0.86). disagree to 7 = strongly agree. The authors used the Arabic After receiving a signed consent form from their parents, version of Gradat (2006). A CFA was performed and showed respondents were presented with a clear description of the study an acceptable model fit of the scale, where RMSEA = 0.079; and they provided written informed assent prior to completing SRMR = 0.057; CFI = 0.90; NFI = 0.90; GFI = 0.95; and TLI = 0.86. the survey. Participation was voluntary and respondents were The internal consistency was acceptable where Cronbach’s Alpha asked to complete the questionnaire at the school under the coefficient was 0.71. supervision of the school teachers and the recruited research assistants for the study. Well-Being We opted for a broad and general assessment of different Measures facets of psychological well-being (for a similar approach, see Perceived Threat Costabile et al., 2021). Relying on the work of Seligman (2011), The authors developed a 5-items scale to assess the extent to we defined well-being in terms of the five “PERMA” pillars: which Qatari citizens feel threat as a result of blockade. Examples Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and of the items used were “I feel anxious when I think of the blockade Accomplishment. A 15-item PERMA-Profiler was used. This crisis” and “I feel fearful when I think of the blockade crisis.” The scale was developed by Butler and Kern (2016). The scale participants were asked to rate their responses on a 7-point Likert was translated by a bilingual mental health specialist and back scale ranges from 1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree. translated by a certified translator to avoid ambiguity of the items. A CFA showed the suitability of the scale, where RMSEA = 0.022; Participants were asked to report their answers on a 10-point SRMR = 0.006; CFI = 0.99; NFI = 0.99; GFI = 0.99; and TLI = 0.98. scale from 1 = strongly disagree to 10 = strongly agree. The items The internal consistency showed a good reliability (Cronbach’s included “How often do you feel joyful” and “To what extent you a = 0.84). have been feeling loved.” A CFA was carried out and showed an acceptable model fit of the scale, where RMSEA = 0.040; SRMR = 0.003; CFI = 0.97; NFI = 0.97; GFI = 0.98; and TLI = 0.97. Social Identity The internal consistency of the scale was very strong (Cronbach’s To measure national (Qatari) identity, we selected four items a = 0.90). from the Arabic version of the national identity scale developed by Al Rabaani (2017). Such a scale was developed and used for Omani secondary school students in the same education stage Statistical Analysis as their Qatari counterparts. Moreover, since Qatar and Oman To investigate our hypotheses, SPSS Version 26 software have a shared Khaleeji culture, the authors decided to use the was used. Our data were theoretically nested (i.e., pupils same scale with small adaptation where the word “Omani” was were nested within schools). Therefore, we first investigated replaced with “Qatari.” Besides, the scale indicated a very good whether multilevel analyses were warranted. We estimated empty internal consistency in the Omani sample (a = 0.94). Participants (intercept-only) models, which provide insight into the variances were asked to rate the items on a 7-point Likert scale from in our mediator and outcome at the individual and contextual 1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree (for example, “I am levels. We also assessed the intraclass correlations (ICCs) to proud of being Qatari”). A confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) explore if there was substantial between-level variance in the showed the suitability of the scale, where RMSEA = 0.001; scores of our mediator and outcome variable, which would SRMR = 0.001; CFI = 0.99; NFI = 0.99; GFI = 0.99; and TLI = 0.99. warrant the use of multilevel modeling. Taking into account the The internal consistency of the scale was very strong (Cronbach’s higher-level structure did not significantly improve the goodness- a = 0.88). of-fit statistics of each model (i.e., changes in 2  log-likelihood 2 2 To measure supra-regional (Gulf ) identity and ethno-cultural were $ (1) = 1.86, p = 0.17 for self-esteem; and $ (1) = 0.46, (Arab) identity, we used the same scale that was used to assess p = 0.49 for well-being. Additionally, all ICC’s were very small the national identity and replaced the word Qatar with Khaleeji (0.0056 for self-esteem and 0.0028 for well-being), indicating that and Arabi for the two scales. For example, “I am proud of being only 0.56% of the variance in self-esteem and only 0.28% of the Khaleeji” and “I am proud of being Arabi.” A confirmatory factor variance in well-being are due to differences at the school level. analysis for each scale indicated adequate model fit, where the As such, multilevel analyses are not warranted. model fit indices for the Gulf identity scale were RMSEA = 0.088; Pearson correlation coefficients were calculated to explore the SRMR = 0.014; CFI = 0.99; NFI = 0.99; GFI = 0.99; and relationships among the study variables. To test the conditional TLI = 0.99 and those for the Arab identity were RMSEA = 0.098; indirect effects of threat on well-being via self-esteem at different SRMR = 0.021; CFI = 0.98; NFI = 0.98; GFI = 0.99; and TLI = 0.96. levels of social identity, we conducted bootstrap analyses (1,000 Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 4 March 2022 | Volume 13 | Article 750471 fpsyg-13-750471 March 30, 2022 Time: 11:51 # 5 Amin et al. Identity, Threat, and Qatar Blockade TABLE 1 | Correlations among study variables. bootstrap samples) using Hayes’ (2013) Process macro in which the association between the predictor (i.e., threat) and the Measure M SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 mediator (i.e., self-esteem), as well as the associations between the predictor and the outcome variable (i.e., well-being) were Perceived threat 2.91 1.52 – Qatari identity 6.87 0.53 0.02 – moderated by social identity faces (i.e., Model 8; Hayes, 2013). Gulf identity 6.40 0.95 0.02 0.53*** – In particular, we tested three such models, testing the separate buffering effects of national, supra-regional, and ethno-cultural Arab identity 6.61 0.74 0.04 0.60*** 0.66*** – Self-esteem 4.95 0.80 0.13*** 0.27*** 0.26*** 0.29*** – identities, respectively (while controlling for the other two Well-being 7.82 1.49 0.13*** 0.20*** 0.25*** 0.23*** 0.49*** – identity facets). p < 0.10; *p < 0.05; **p < 0.01; ***p < 0.001. RESULTS Finally, as an additional robustness check, we created indices of comparative identity (see Huici et al., 1997). Particularly, we Descriptive Statistics produced variables that compared each facet or “level” of identity Table 1 presents the means, standard deviations, and correlations with the other two and reran the analyses using these comparative between all study variables. At the outset, there were high overall identity scores as moderators. The results are portrayed in levels of all three facets of social identity, and of self-esteem and Table 4 and, interestingly, seem to mirror the original results, as well-being in the sample. The identity facets were all strongly such providing more confidence in our conclusions. Specifically, positively interrelated, and they were all positively related to self- identifying relatively more as Qatari compared to as Khaleeji or esteem and well-being. The mean score for perceived threat—a Arab did not moderate the association between threat and self- 7-point Likert scale—was considerably lower. Furthermore, there esteem, nor did identifying relatively more as Arab compared was no significant relationship between perceived threat and to as Khaleeji or Qatari. The only significant moderator was the identity facets, although threat was significantly negatively identifying relatively more as Khaleeji compared to as Qatari associated with self-esteem and well-being. or Arab. Simple slope analyses indicated that this comparative Gulf identity buffered the negative threat effects, in the sense that the threat effect was considerably lower for those who Predicting Qatari Youth Well-Being most strongly identified with the Gulf area compared with Table 2 portrays the results of the moderated mediation analyses. their level of identification with Qatar or with the whole Arab First, threat (negatively) and each identity facet (positively) world. Put differently, this comparative supranational, regional independently predicted self-esteem. The interaction terms were identity aspect of identifying relatively most with the Gulf area not statistically significant, except for the small yet marginally significantly weakened the psychological effects of the threat significant interaction effect of threat and Gulf identity in the following the blockade, whereas the other two comparative prediction of self-esteem. As predicted, simple slope analyses identities (either at the lower, national or the higher, religious indicated that Gulf identity seemed to buffer the negative threat level) did not exert such moderating effects. In sum, the saliency effects, in the sense that the threat effect was considerably lower of the Gulf identity mattered most. for high Gulf identifiers than for low Gulf identifiers. Notably, the negative effect of threat, although small, was still significant among high Gulf identifiers, indicating that the buffering effect of this overarching social identity is rather limited. For Qatar DISCUSSION and Arab identity, a similar buffering trend was found, but none of the slopes were significantly different between high and The aim of the current study was to investigate the additive low identifiers. and interactive effects of threat and social identity in predicting Second, self-esteem further predicted well-being, and while self-esteem and well-being among Qatari youth. Indeed, it can perceived threat again negatively predicted well-being in each be argued that the 2017 Qatar blockade may have increased model, only Gulf identity was positively related to well-being. feelings of threat, particularly among this group, and whereas None of the interaction terms reached conventional levels such threat perceptions might negatively impact well-being via of significance, and simple slope effects corroborated this by lowered self-esteem, we predicted that an overarching social showing similarly negative effects of threat among low vs. identity might mitigate (i.e., buffer) this negative association. high identifiers. Our results somewhat provided support for this hypothesis. Table 3 further delineates the total, direct, and indirect effects Indeed, the overarching supra-regional identity facet of Gulf of perceived threat on well-being, at different levels of social (Khaleeji) identity not only positively predicted self-esteem identification. The results in each of these models revealed and well-being, it also buffered the negative threat-self-esteem significant total and direct effects of threat on well-being for those association. Specifically, among those identifying more strongly with low, medium, and high levels of social identification alike. with the Gulf region, the threat perceptions accompanying the Importantly, the significant indirect effects point to self-esteem blockade did not relate to lower self-esteem to the same extent as mediator of the threat-well-being relationship. This mediating (as opposed to among low Gulf identifiers). Interestingly, both effect was significant at all levels of (each facet of ) identity. identification with the “lower” national (Qatar) identity facet and Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 5 March 2022 | Volume 13 | Article 750471 fpsyg-13-750471 March 30, 2022 Time: 11:51 # 6 Amin et al. Identity, Threat, and Qatar Blockade TABLE 2 | Unstandardized estimates and 95% confidence intervals of moderated mediation analyses on self-esteem (upper panel) and well-being (lower panel) for each facet of social identity separately. Moderator: Qatar identity Gulf identity Arab Identity Estimate 95% CI Estimate 95% CI Estimate 95% CI Outcome: self-esteem b LL UL b LL UL B LL UL Perceived threat 0.07*** 0.09 0.04 0.07*** 0.09 0.04 0.07*** 0.09 0.04 Social identity 0.23*** 0.14 0.32 0.07** 0.02 0.13 0.15*** 0.07 0.22 Perceived threat  social identity 0.03 0.03 0.08 0.02 0.00 0.05 0.01 0.02 0.04 Threat effect for low identifiers 0.08*** 0.12 0.04 0.09*** 0.12 0.05 0.07*** 0.11 0.04 Threat effect for high identifiers 0.06*** 0.09 0.04 0.05*** 0.08 0.02 0.06*** 0.09 0.03 Outcome: well-being Self-esteem 0.82*** 0.74 0.90 0.82*** 0.74 0.90 0.82*** 0.74 0.91 Perceived threat 0.07*** 0.11 0.03 0.07** 0.11 0.03 0.07** 0.11 0.03 Social identity 0.06 0.11 0.22 0.17*** 0.08 0.27 0.04 0.09 0.16 Perceived threat  social identity 0.03 0.06 0.13 0.01 0.04 0.05 0.00 0.05 0.06 Threat effect for low identifiers 0.09** 0.16 0.02 0.07** 0.13 0.02 0.07** 0.13 0.01 Threat effect for high identifiers 0.06** 0.11 0.02 0.07** 0.11 0.02 0.07** 0.11 0.02 p < 0.10; *p < 0.05; **p < 0.01; ***p < 0.001. LL, lower limit; UL, upper limit. The italics are added to indicate slope effects. TABLE 3 | Unstandardized estimates and 95% confidence intervals of the total, direct, and indirect, effects of perceived threat on well-being via self-esteem, at different levels of each facet of social identity separately. Total Direct Indirect Estimate 95% CI Estimate 95% CI Estimate 95% CI b LL UL b LL UL b LL UL Moderator: Qatar identity Low identity 0.15*** 0.23 0.08 0.09** 0.16 0.02 0.07** 0.11 0.02 Medium identity 0.12*** 0.17 0.08 0.07*** 0.11 0.03 0.05** 0.08 0.03 High identity 0.11*** 0.16 0.07 0.06** 0.11 0.02 0.05** 0.08 0.03 Moderator: gulf identity Low identity 0.14*** 0.21 0.08 0.07** 0.13 0.02 0.07** 0.10 0.04 Medium identity 0.12*** 0.17 0.08 0.07** 0.11 0.03 0.05** 0.08 0.03 High identity 0.11*** 0.16 0.05 0.07** 0.11 0.02 0.04** 0.07 0.02 Moderator: Arab identity Low identity 0.13*** 0.20 0.07 0.07** 0.13 0.01 0.06** 0.10 0.02 Medium identity 0.12*** 0.17 0.08 0.07** 0.11 0.03 0.05** 0.08 0.03 High identity 0.12*** 0.17 0.06 0.07** 0.11 0.02 0.05** 0.08 0.02 p < 0.10; *p < 0.05; **p < 0.01; ***p < 0.001. LL, lower limit; UL, upper limit. with the “higher,” more encompassing ethno-cultural/religious development of such identities in real-world contexts (outside the (Arab) identity facet failed to exert such buffering effect. labs of Western universities, see Huddy, 2001). It is important to note the challenges to social identity theory, as outlined by Huddy Applying Intergroup Threat and Social (2001), also reflect some of the original theorizing by Tajfel et al. Identity Theory to Intergroup Relations in (1971), who emphasized the importance of understanding the role of context when applying the theory to different groups and the Gulf Region to not make the assumption of universality. Nonetheless, a recent It has been argued that social identity theory has not been as cross-cultural meta-analysis including over 20,000 respondents impactful as expected in political psychology due to a focus on across 18 studies/samples found ingroup bias to be a relatively the effects of social identity across group memberships in lab contexts (within Western societies), and a lack of attention on the universal phenomenon (Fischer and Derham, 2016), but with Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 6 March 2022 | Volume 13 | Article 750471 fpsyg-13-750471 March 30, 2022 Time: 11:51 # 7 Amin et al. Identity, Threat, and Qatar Blockade TABLE 4 | Unstandardized estimates and 95% confidence intervals of moderated mediation analyses on self-esteem (upper panel) and well-being (lower panel) for each facet of comparative social identity separately. Moderator: Comparative Qatar identity Comparative Gulf identity Comparative Arab identity Estimate 95% CI Estimate 95% CI Estimate 95% CI Outcome: self-esteem b LL UL b LL UL b LL UL Perceived threat 0.06*** 0.09 0.04 0.07*** 0.09 0.04 0.07*** 0.09 0.04 Social identity 0.17*** 0.23 0.11 0.10*** 0.05 0.16 0.04 0.04 0.11 Perceived threat  social identity 0.03 0.07 01 0.03* 0.00 0.07 0.02 0.06 0.03 Threat effect for low identifiers 0.05** 0.08 0.01 0.09*** 0.12 0.06 0.06*** 0.09 0.03 Threat effect for high identifiers 0.08*** 0.11 0.05 0.04* 0.08 0.01 0.08*** 0.11 0.04 Outcome: well-being Self-esteem 0.87*** 0.79 0.95 0.88*** 0.80 0.96 0.82*** 0.74 0.91 Perceived threat 0.06** 0.11 0.02 0.07** 0.11 0.02 0.07** 0.11 0.02 Social identity 0.21*** 0.31 0.10 0.19*** 0.10 0.28 0.06 0.18 0.06 Perceived threat  social identity 0.00 0.06 0.06 0.00 0.05 0.06 0.01 0.08 0.06 Threat effect for low identifiers 0.06** 0.12 0.01 0.07** 0.12 0.01 0.06** 0.12 0.01 Threat effect for high identifiers 0.06** 0.12 0.01 0.06** 0.12 0.01 0.07** 0.13 0.01 p < 0.10; *p < 0.05; **p < 0.01; ***p < 0.001. L, lower limit; UL, upper limit. The italics are added to indicate slope effects. systematic variance found for countries with differing levels of and although relatedness (a construct closely related to group individualism or collectivism, and uncertainty avoidant contexts. identification) was positively related to well-being, it failed to Importantly, and reflecting limitations found in much of the buffer against the detrimental threat effects—put differently, they literature, no data on Muslim-majority countries were included, also found additive but no interactive effects. thereby limiting the generalizability of the findings. Relatedly, while there is extensive research on the effects of What Do We Know About the Psychology political violence (Palmieri et al., 2008; Muldoon, 2013), less is of Qataris? known about the complex relationship between the perception Compared to studies involving Western samples, there is a lack of threat in socio-political tensions, and the potential buffering of high-quality large-scale datasets concerning populations from effect of identity in its associations with mental health variables Gulf States such as Qatar. Within psychology, and social sciences such as self-esteem. This is especially the case for younger more broadly, the dependence on samples typically from WEIRD populations. In fact, because the blockade of Qatar is experienced populations has limited the cross-cultural generalizability of key as an act of aggression, it can be seen like a perceived threat conceptualizations of the self, motivation, and behavior (Henrich to social identity and national security. In those circumstances, et al., 2010). Nonetheless, there has been an emergence of some people may perceive this threat as a source of anxiety and worry. empirical research on youth well-being from Gulf countries in But when the crisis is well managed, a collective consciousness international psychology literature (Abdel-Khalek, 2011, 2013; can develop protective attitudes and resilient actions to overcome Al-Attiyah and Nasser, 2016; Bedair et al., 2020). the threat by reinvesting and re-constructing their social identity The potential role of the Qatari blockade and its influence on and collective social esteem. youth national, regional, and ethno-cultural identity, self-esteem, Threats to the content and value of group membership and well-being presents a dilemma for political psychology are distinguished in social identity theory (Breakwell, 1983; conceptualizations of intergroup conflict. The combined effects McKeown et al., 2016). When individuals’ social identity is of these variables and their potential association with well-being threatened, they attempt to raise their esteem. Worchel and in Qatari youth is poorly understood. This paper addressed this Coutant (1997) maintain that threats to our identities may come issue, and its results s present a number of interesting findings from out-groups: when such out-groups attack our in-group, in the context of the unique challenges brought about by the this threat can severely worsen our self-worth and well-being. Qatari blockade for Qatari youth. Firstly, it is clear that despite Studies showed that perceived threat to our group identities leads these challenges, young Qataris perceived relatively low levels to intergroup anxiety, and but very few attempted to examine of threat, and scored relatively high on all facets of identity, the potential buffering role the identities we attempt to portray self-esteem, and well-being. In line with our predictions, those may play (Branscombe et al., 1999). An exception can be found who perceived lower levels of threat and had higher levels in the work of Chen et al. (2015). In a South African and a of identification and self-esteem were more likely to report Chinese sample, they found strong effects of (environmental stronger levels of overall well-being. In contrast to prior literature and financial) threat on lower well-being and higher ill-being, suggesting that social identification increases due to perceived Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 7 March 2022 | Volume 13 | Article 750471 fpsyg-13-750471 March 30, 2022 Time: 11:51 # 8 Amin et al. Identity, Threat, and Qatar Blockade threat (Haslam et al., 2005), this model provides no evidence that countries. The Gulf countries participated in huge projects this was directly the case within the Qatari blockade. for rewriting their mutual history, traditions, sports and arts Most importantly, and partly confirming our predictions (Erskine-Loftus et al., 2016). based on a firm theoretical background, this study also found However, the recent Gulf crisis and the blockade of Qatar a (marginally significant) buffering effect of superordinate demonstrated the fragility of this political homogeneity amongst identification with the Gulf region as a whole, but not with them. This crisis has also impacted aspects of identity for Gulf national or Arab identification. This may be due to the relatively countries; especially for Qataris, since the blockade, the threats, untested psychometric properties of the measure used, but it may and the media conflicts -especially on social media- resulted also be attributed to the fact that young Qataris already had in an identity wound, where the Gulf identity was thought to high levels of national identity prior to the blockade. Given the have lost its value and importance as a source of safety and absence of valid and reliable representative data for the mental trust. There was much anecdotal reports and media coverage health of Qatari youth prior to the blockade, it is not possible to regarding the Qatari resilience in response to the blockade, infer direct causal effects of the blockade at present. Nonetheless, and it remains unknown why the specific facet of Khaleeji we put forward that future studies could further explore the identity provided a path to such resilience. It may be related roles of different “levels” of identification. Although all facets to the web of identities fused between Qatari citizens and their of identity positively relate to positive outcomes such as self- fellow GCC countries, and the potentially complex depths of esteem and well-being, only a “medium-level” identity can (to the Khaleeji identity (which itself predates the national GCC a limited extent) buffer against negative effects of intergroup identities; Al-Misned, 2016; Allam and Karolak, 2020). As such, threat perceptions. we claim that the Gulf region is characterized by distinct ingroup- outgroup dynamics, which in itself form an interesting avenue Khaleeji Identity as a “Cure for All”? for future work. For instance, experimental co-ethnic voting On the one hand, a national identity could be too narrow to evidence from Qatar indicates that Qataris have low political offer solace after an impactful event (such as the blockade) that salience of ethnic divisions, and do not exhibit negative prejudice heightens intergroup tensions in the area. As the blockade might against perceived outgroup members (Shockley and Gengler, have especially triggered those strongly identifying with their 2020). Perhaps such low outgroup negativity is the exact reason country, one could have even expected an opposite interaction why a strong Gulf identity is maintained, even in the face effect here, with strong national identification amplifying the of the blockade. threat effects. On the other hand, the superordinate identification Taken together, these nuanced and interlinking identity with all Arabs globally might be too broad to buffer threat effects features could impact the identification of cause-and-effect either. Indeed, the blockade worsened intergroup relations in the relationships between the blockade and different levels of Gulf area only. As a consequence, a strong ethno-cultural identity identity, mental health, and well-being. The interconnected would not be powerful enough to limit the effects of threat on self- nature of Qatari identity within the GCC means that the esteem and well-being. It seems that the overarching identity with shared descent of all stakeholders could be separable from the Gulf area (i.e., the perpetrator of the blockade) is just about the perceived threat of the blockade with respect to other right to buffer against the potential detrimental effects of the factors (i.e., economic problems). It is also possible that Qatari blockade. And even this facet of Khaleeji identity has its limits, as youth were able to set apart their shared identity with the the threat effect remained significant among high Gulf identifiers. blockading GCC countries from the socio-political conflicts In the beginning of the 21st century, the Arab Gulf countries underpinning the blockade. entered a new era, an era during which it drew its power, not only Implications for Education in Qatar through its oil production, but also through possessing cultural capacities (Alsharekh and Springborg, 2012). The Gulf countries The Qatari National Human Rights Committee (QNHRC) in have succeeded in shaping a Gulf identity, as they considered 2017 very clearly highlighted the adverse impact of the blockade doing that was necessary to maintain national, regional, and on all aspects of society, including youth mental health. Coupled international legitimacy (Allam and Karolak, 2020). This identity with a comparatively high prevalence of mental health problems used to provide the citizens of those countries with a sense (Schoenbach et al., 2018; Khaled, 2019), in addition to the of safety, trust, and positive self-image. Historically, the Gulf enduring role of stigma in the region (Ciftci et al., 2013; identity emerged with the establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Zolezzi et al., 2017), there are several educational lessons from Council in 1981. The purpose of this council was presenting a which to strengthen societal understanding of the connections unified vision of the Arab Gulf regarding external political affairs between Qatari youth identity, perceived threats in the present which reflect one Gulf identity. or future, self-esteem, and well-being. Given the salient effects of The Gulf Cooperation Council members worked hard threat and uncertainty on youth mental health, awareness-raising to manifest this idea to a living reality (Lawson, 2012), campaigns and the psychoeducation of how humans react to and they succeeded to a certain extent in doing so. These (perceived) threat can assist in helping young Qataris understand countries have strong social, familial relations, and homogenous their reaction to the blockade, and indeed any future changes. patterns in sports and cultural expression’such as poetry Further initiatives that can solidify and support youth Khaleeji and music that they share. This homogeneity is what identity in the face of (perceived) threats of the blockade are likely makes Gulf countries standout from the rest of Arab to positively impact outcomes for Qatari youth, but more formal Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 8 March 2022 | Volume 13 | Article 750471 fpsyg-13-750471 March 30, 2022 Time: 11:51 # 9 Amin et al. Identity, Threat, and Qatar Blockade evaluations of such interventions are nonetheless advisable. nation of Qatar, the Gulf area, and the Arab world as a whole were Indeed, in order to offset or minimize any potentially adverse all strongly positively associated with self-esteem and well-being, mental health consequences, educational psychologists in Qatar and the specific facet of Gulf (i.e., Khaleeji) identity even buffered may be appropriately placed to facilitate new awareness and against some detrimental threat effects. Given the new forms of psychoeducational campaigns to help young Qataris understand intergroup conflict that are evolving—such as cyberwarfare, or the functionality of identity in all its facets and all its complexity, sanctions and restrictions due to pandemic and/or geopolitical especially in the face of perceived threats and uncertainty. factors—researchers should examine the real-time development of perceived threat among different age cohorts, in addition to embedding other variables that can capture the potential role Strengths and Limitations of individual differences. Additionally, future research should Despite the fact that we used a very large sample from a non- endeavor to collect representative samples from across the Gulf WEIRD country, in a unique context to perform this integrative region to ensure greater comparability across the collective test of three well-known predictors of well-being, there are a literature. This will aid the advancement of a more globally number of methodological considerations in this study. It is representative political psychology where the GCC region can be important to note that the time of data collection for this study appropriately situated. was in mid-2020. Owing to the considerable gap in time between the initial shock of the blockade and the 2020 pandemic, it is conceivable that this time lag effect may have impacted the DATA AVAILABILITY STATEMENT quality of the data. Given the developmental changes of the young Qatari population from the time of the blockade up until this The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be study’s data collection, it is likely that respondents could have made available by the authors, without undue reservation. had different responses during the blockade. It is also possible that Qatari youth consolidated and enhanced their national sense of identity within this time period, but this was not possible ETHICS STATEMENT to retrospectively demonstrate within the methodology of this study. Furthermore, given the nature of the research questions, The studies involving human participants were reviewed it would have been useful to compare data before and after the and approved by the IRB and was obtained from the blockade; but no such data presently exists for the population of Doha Institute for Graduate Studies. The patients/participants interest. Moreover, the psychometric properties of the national provided their written informed consent to participate in this identity measure and also the perceived threat require further study. validation in Gulf populations before concrete interpretations can occur. Especially our measure of threat stands rather far from classic threat scale that tap into a certain symbolic or realistic AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS feeling of threat with outgroup members (mostly newcomers) “taking away” part of the ingroup culture or ingroup socio- AA reviewed the analyzed data and supported the writing of the economic status. Our measure contains more anxiety-related manuscript. JV and DM performed data analysis and supported items referring to the blockade, as such tapping into threat the drafting and editing of the manuscript. JV, AA, and MA coming from outgroups that are not present within the own analyzed the data and drafted the manuscript. DA-A and MA country, but still pose a major concern (particularly in terms of conducted the data collection. JV and YH reviewed the analysis economic threat). A final limitation to be considered is the role of and supported the writing of the manuscript. All authors read and socially desirable responses when interpreting the overall dataset. approved the final manuscript. CONCLUSION FUNDING In the context of intergroup relations within the Gulf area, This publication was made possible by an NPRP-S grant (No. we showed that perceived threat accompanying the 2017 Qatar NPRP11S-0108-180226) from the Qatar National Research Fund blockade was related to Qatari youngsters’ lower well-being via (a member of Qatar Foundation). JV received sponsorship from lower levels of self-esteem. Conversely, identification with the the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO.3E0.2021.0085.0). Abdel-Khalek, A. M. (2013). The relationships between subjective well-being, REFERENCES health, and religiosity among young adults from Qatar. Ment. Health Religion Abdel-Khalek, A. M. (2011). Religiosity, subjective well-being, self- Cult. 16, 306–318. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17041369 esteem, and anxiety among Kuwaiti Muslim adolescents. Ment. Al Rabaani, A. (2017). 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The use, distribution for high and low authoritarians: multilevel and longitudinal effects through or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) intergroup contact and threat. Pers. Soc. Psychol. Bull. 44, 1163–1179. doi: and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication 10.1177/0146167218764653 in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No Wiegand, K. (2012). Bahrain, Qatar, and the Hawar Islands: resolution of a Gulf use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with territorial dispute. Middle East J. 66, 79–96. these terms. Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 11 March 2022 | Volume 13 | Article 750471 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Frontiers in Psychology Pubmed Central

Can Identity Buffer Against the Detrimental Effects of Threat? The Case of the Qatar Blockade

Frontiers in Psychology , Volume 13 – Mar 30, 2022

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Copyright © 2022 Amin, Van Assche, Abdelrahman, McCashin, Al-Adwan and Hasan.
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10.3389/fpsyg.2022.750471
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fpsyg-13-750471 March 30, 2022 Time: 11:51 # 1 ORIGINAL RESEARCH published: 30 March 2022 doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.750471 Can Identity Buffer Against the Detrimental Effects of Threat? The Case of the Qatar Blockade 1† 2,3† 1 1 Azzam Amin , Jasper Van Assche , Mohamed Abdelrahman , Darragh McCashin , 1 4 Duaa Al-Adwan and Youssef Hasan 1 2 Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, Doha, Qatar, Department of Developmental, Personality and Social Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium, Center for Social and Cultural Psychology, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Bruxelles, Belgium, Psychology Program, Department of Social Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, Qatar University, Doha, Qatar In 2017, the blockade of Qatar Gulf states caused a plethora of effects on the country. This paper sought to examine the resulting threat effects of this blockade in terms of Edited by: lowered self-esteem and well-being, and the potential buffering effects of an overarching Qiang Shen, Zhejiang University of Technology, identity. Using self-report questionnaire data from Qatari secondary school students China (N = 1,410), multiple moderated mediation models investigated the predictive effects Reviewed by: of youngsters’ perceived threat, via self-esteem, on their well-being, and the mitigating Cicero Roberto Pereira, roles herein of, respectively, national, Gulf region, and Arab identity. Perceived threat Federal University of Paraíba, Brazil Rosa Scardigno, was indeed related to lower well-being via lower self-esteem, and this relationship was University of Bari Aldo Moro, Italy equally strong for those low and high in social identity. In terms of the three facets of *Correspondence: identity, the overarching Gulf identity seems the most predictive, and it even (marginally Mohamed Abdelrahman significantly) buffers the negative relationship between threat and reduced self-esteem. mkk.abdelrahman@gmail.com orcid.org/0000-0001-8739-1670 Keywords: perceived threat, national identity, self-esteem, well-being, Qatar blockade These authors have contributed equally to this work and share first authorship INTRODUCTION Specialty section: In 1981, six Arab countries (the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Kingdom of Bahrain, the This article was submitted to United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Oman) signed an agreement to establish the Gulf Cooperation Personality and Social Psychology, a section of the journal Council (GCC). This charter contributed significantly to the stability in the region., the GCC region Frontiers in Psychology has even been considered the most stable entity of the Middle East region (Bianco and Stansfield, 2018). The fundamental principles of constructing this entity were to promote economic, financial, Received: 30 July 2021 Accepted: 03 March 2022 and cultural cooperation, to enhance social ties between people, and to foster political stability and Published: 30 March 2022 security within the region (Nakhleh, 1986). Citation: From a social identity perspective, the charter also helped to facilitate an integrated entity among Amin A, Van Assche J, the Gulf states and its citizens. It enabled people in all Gulf states to develop a shared identity known Abdelrahman M, McCashin D, as “Khaleeji’ identity” (Al-Misned, 2016). Historically, this overarching Gulf identity had been Al-Adwan D and Hasan Y (2022) Can formed long before the separate Gulf states, and their according national identities, emerged (Allam Identity Buffer Against the Detrimental and Karolak, 2020). In relation to social ties, intermarriage across GCC countries is common. Effects of Threat? The Case of the As a result, the existence of extended families across these six countries produced similarities in Qatar Blockade. many aspects of life spanning culture, identity, music, and poetry. In addition, GCC citizens have Front. Psychol. 13:750471. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.750471 travel privileges to facilitate free movement between member states without visa requirements Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 1 March 2022 | Volume 13 | Article 750471 fpsyg-13-750471 March 30, 2022 Time: 11:51 # 2 Amin et al. Identity, Threat, and Qatar Blockade (Alshihaby, 2015). Therefore, these factors indicate that goods and services, in addition to the social and familial GCC citizens perceived themselves as relatively united and interconnectedness of Gulf states, immeasurable challenges with a common identity sharing many key characteristics emerged for the Qatari population. The Qatari National Human (Al-Khouri, 2010). Rights Committee (QNHRC) in 2017 reported that the blockade had instilled a sense of fear due to the fragmentation of The 2017 Blockade of Qatar families (due to border closures), created risks of adverse Aside from the geopolitical importance of the landscape, the psychological outcomes, and caused irreparable damage between Gulf region is undergoing considerable political and social once-intertwined Gulf cultures and societies. Undoubtedly, the transformations caused by several key trends in recent times, feelings of threat accompanying the blockade may pose a serious including the Arab Spring, economic transitions, and shifting challenge to the self-esteem and the well-being of Qatari people. demographics. The state of Qatar—a small peninsula within Nonetheless, these psychological consequences of intergroup the Arabian Gulf—is a traditional Muslim collectivist society conflicts in the Gulf region remain poorly understood within the with established gender segregation norms (e.g., separate boys literature. The particular characteristics of this blockade present a and girls schools; Bahry and Marr, 2005); but with state unique opportunity to understand intergroup conflict within an commitments to harmoniously modernize the country with understudied region. ambitious development strategies at national and international levels, such as the hosting of the FIFA World Cup 2022. High The Detrimental Effects of Threat levels of social security, extensive public and private investments, openness to globalization and rapid industrialization have Research on (perceived) intergroup conflict has typically focused typified the nature of Qatar’s development in recent decades on effects relating to stressors that may exacerbate conflict, (Dogan Akkas and Camden, 2020). Such developments have also physicality, territory, power; in addition to restrictions for civil led to the emergence of regional competitiveness, with Qatar liberties and human rights (Carriere et al., 2020). For instance, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) regularly competing with previous studies on the European continent have indicated that each other to promote their active contributions to international threat is related to greater levels of prejudice [see e.g., Van Assche society (Ennis, 2018). As a result, it has been suggested that the et al. (2018) for samples from Netherlands and Germany] and to success of Qatar in different fields such as sport can foster jealousy lower levels of well-being [see Schmid and Muldoon (2015) for (Gulf Times, 2017). a Northern Irish sample]. In the latter context, this detrimental Although the GCC entity has maintained stability and effect of threat was only for those who had prior experience cohesion since its inception, the political relationships have with the particular political conflict or with the co-occurring encountered some tensions among the allied countries. For violence. Yet, there is a distinct lack of research outside these example, there was a sovereignty dispute between Bahrain, so-called WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Qatar and the Hawar Islands in 1936, which was peacefully Democratic) contexts, and on the potential role of perceived resolved in 2001 via the International Court of Justice (Wiegand, threat for well-being and self-esteem (a well-known proxy of well- 2012). Similarly, political tension resulted in a border dispute being) in young adults where such individuals do not have prior between Qatar and Saudi Arabia in 1992 and 1994 (Okruhlik and experience of conflicts, as is the case in the Qatari blockade. Conge, 1999). Nonetheless, the GCC overcame these disputes and The distinctive factors within the Qatari blockade are maintained the strong ties among the Gulf states. difficult to situate within the current perceived intergroup threat However, on 5th June 2017, to much regional and literature. This is due to a number of factors, chiefly the absence international shock, the Gulf States of the Kingdom of of violence, and the uniquely impactful role of social media in Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom of Bahrain, the United Arab communicating some of the psychological effects of the blockade Emirates; and Egypt all severed diplomatic relations with Qatar. in young adults—living in an increasingly globalized Qatar— Given the cooperation of the Gulf region in the past, this blockade who have no direct experience of political conflict or violence was regarded as unprecedented; and brought with it a cascade of (Alkaabi and Soliman, 2017; El-Masri et al., 2020). Moreover, effects across many levels of society. Sophisticated cyberattacks over 50,000 citizens from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the on Qatari state media implicated Qatari stakeholders across a Kingdom of Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates lived in range of politically sensitive allegations. Following this, a 13- Qatar prior to the blockade, and significant overlapping familial, point list of maximalist demands were given to Qatar (Ulrichsen, sporting, commercial and political ties existed across the Gulf 2020)—itself underpinned by a narrative of Qatari involvement (Zahlan, 2016). in terrorist activity and corruption (Milton-Edwards, 2020). For The largely unforeseen and immediate severing of these ties example, the demands included: closing of Qatari-run media has never been experienced by the so-called generation Z of such as Al Jazeera, ceasing military cooperation with Turkey, Qatari citizens (born from 1996 onward). Given the overlapping severing alleged ties with terrorist organizations and the hosting ties held by young Qatari adults across Gulf groups, it is unclear of their representatives within Qatar, and paying compensation how the functionality of the perceived threats from the blockade to the blockading Gulf states. would potentially affect individual self-esteem and well-being, Despite a willingness to find a resolution, Qatar did not wish depending on the commonality Qataris feel with other Gulf state to accept the accusations nor the demands of the blockade. citizens. It should be noted that perceived threats of any kinds Owing to considerable dependence on importations of key may not adversely impact well-being in all contexts. There is a Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 2 March 2022 | Volume 13 | Article 750471 fpsyg-13-750471 March 30, 2022 Time: 11:51 # 3 Amin et al. Identity, Threat, and Qatar Blockade body of research that has demonstrated the important positive in Qatari young adults are comparatively frequent (Al-Attiyah relationship between one’s social identity and perceived threats. and Nasser, 2016; Schoenbach et al., 2018). Other data from undergraduate samples reported higher self-rated levels of mental Social Identity as a Potential Buffer health and well-being (Abdel-Khalek, 2013). However, a recent Whereas the threat by the blockade can have a negative impact cross-cultural telephone survey of non-migrant Qataris and on Qatari’s self-esteem and well-being, they can find solace in migrants found that the former had lower levels of depression their social identity. In particular, this paper adopts a theoretical that was comparable to Western epidemiology (between 4.2% background initially framed by social identity theory (Tajfel et al., and 6.6%; see Khaled, 2019; Khaled and Gray, 2019). Within 1979) which posits that individuals’ sense of identity is based on Qatari primary healthcare, it is estimated that approximately their group membership(s), and can thus heavily influence other one-quarter of attendees had at least one psychiatric diagnosis key psychological factors (including self-esteem, group pride, and (Ghuloum et al., 2011; Bener et al., 2015). However, much of even well-being). Social identity theory places the origins of social this data is using smaller samples from college-aged participants identity within the domains of both cognitive and motivational or older adults in timeframes that predated the Qatari blockade factors—these can influence group members to support or detach (Ciftci et al., 2013; Zolezzi et al., 2017). from their group. Indeed, one of the key contributions of social To date, there exists no high-quality dataset regarding identity theory is the replicated finding of ingroup favoritism the well-being, self-esteem, identity or perception of threat across different conditions (Brewer, 1979). among young citizens in Qatar, and no research regarding Of course, much depends on how broadly one defines one’s the effects of the blockade on these psychological variables. ingroup to be. To the extent that one identifies as Qatari, this Nonetheless, the National Mental Health Strategy for Qatar, national identity might be related to stronger preference for Changing Minds, Changing Lives 2013–18 has identified a Qatar over other Gulf countries (and their citizens). Nevertheless, need for a population health approach using an integrated such national identity and ingroup favoritism has been shown system of care, with mental health and well-being named as to elevate one’s self-esteem (Rubin and Hewstone, 1998). To a priority area. This study aims to fill this gap by examining the extent that one identifies with the overarching category of a model where threat and identity additively and interactively Gulf states (i.e., “Khaleeji”), this superordinate common ingroup predict well-being via self-esteem. In other words, we propose identity (e.g., Dovidio and Gaertner, 2000) might be related to a moderated mediation model with threat as predictor, well- a more broad-minded perspective on the intergroup tensions being as outcome, self-esteem as mediator, and social identity as following the blockade. As such, this overarching identity might moderator. Indeed, we first predict that threat will be negatively not only be positively related to self-esteem and well-being, it related to well-being via lower levels of self-esteem (mediation might even buffer against the detrimental effects of perceived hypothesis). Secondly, anchored in the Common Ingroup threat. Exactly because this supranational identity incorporates a Identity hypothesis within Social Identity Theory, we hypothesize strong sense of connection with the other Gulf states, i.e., the very that national (Qatari), supra-regional (Khaleeji/Gulf ), and ethno- perpetrators imposing the blockade and potentially causing the cultural/religious (Arab) identities will be positively related to feelings of threat, we hypothesize that this level of identification self-esteem and well-being, and the supra-regional identity in has the strongest potential to buffer against threat effects. Finally, particular might exert a buffering effect on the negative threat- to the extent that one identifies with the even larger category of self-esteem association (moderation hypothesis). Arabs globally, this social identity facet might relate positively to self-esteem and well-being, but its potential buffering effect on the impact of post-blockade threat perceptions might be limited, MATERIALS AND METHODS given the broadness of the identification that spans much wider than the conflict area per se. Sample Size and Participants To sum up, in the context of social identity theory, we According to the annual statistics of education in the State put forward that some individuals may more readily identify of Qatar (2018), the total number of secondary schools is 62 with their perceived ingroup in an attempt to cope with the (33 are secondary schools for boys), and the total number of stressors originating from perceived outgroup threats (Haslam Qatari students in the secondary schools is 13,946 (7,305 are et al., 2005). The unique Qatari situation of contact between females). Given that there are eight municipalities in Qatar, the the sub-groups making up a nation (or set of nations) authors listed the secondary schools located in each municipality could lead to different levels of identification (national, supra- and randomly selected the schools. The results were a total of regional, and ethno-cultural/religious), which, can be a source twenty-six schools (13 of which were for boys) . Following that, of consolation in the face of the potentially detrimental impact the targeted number of the participants of each school was 60 of threat on self-esteem and well-being (Gaertner et al., 1996; students (20 participants per grades 10, 11, and 12 each). Dovidio and Gaertner, 2000). We performed additional analyses that also included gender at the school level in the model, but there were no differences in self-esteem and well-being between The Current Study boys- and girls-schools (b = 0.04, p = 0.43 for self-esteem; b = 0.05, p = 0.59 for The current study was set up against the backdrop of the well-being), nor were there cross-level interaction effects between individual threat Qatari blockade. We specifically focused on Qatari youth, as and school-level gender (b = 0.00, p = 0.93 for self-esteem; b = 0.01, p = 0.77 for previous research demonstrated that mental health problems well-being). Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 3 March 2022 | Volume 13 | Article 750471 fpsyg-13-750471 March 30, 2022 Time: 11:51 # 4 Amin et al. Identity, Threat, and Qatar Blockade Data were collected via a self-report paper questionnaire The Cronbach’s Alpha for the Gulf and Arab identity scales was between November 2019 and February 2020. Eligible participants 0.87 and 0.83, respectively. had to be Qatari citizens from public secondary schools in Qatar. Self-Esteem A representative sample of 1,500 participants was recruited using A 10-item scale of Rosenberg (1965) was used. Items included convenience sampling, and 50 incomplete responses and 40 non- questions such as “At times I think I am no good at all (reverse Qatari respondents were excluded. The final sample included coded)” and “I take a positive attitude toward myself.” Each item 1,410 participants, of which 40% were males (M = 16.98, age was rated on a 7-point Likert scale ranging from 1 = strongly SD = 0.86). disagree to 7 = strongly agree. The authors used the Arabic After receiving a signed consent form from their parents, version of Gradat (2006). A CFA was performed and showed respondents were presented with a clear description of the study an acceptable model fit of the scale, where RMSEA = 0.079; and they provided written informed assent prior to completing SRMR = 0.057; CFI = 0.90; NFI = 0.90; GFI = 0.95; and TLI = 0.86. the survey. Participation was voluntary and respondents were The internal consistency was acceptable where Cronbach’s Alpha asked to complete the questionnaire at the school under the coefficient was 0.71. supervision of the school teachers and the recruited research assistants for the study. Well-Being We opted for a broad and general assessment of different Measures facets of psychological well-being (for a similar approach, see Perceived Threat Costabile et al., 2021). Relying on the work of Seligman (2011), The authors developed a 5-items scale to assess the extent to we defined well-being in terms of the five “PERMA” pillars: which Qatari citizens feel threat as a result of blockade. Examples Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and of the items used were “I feel anxious when I think of the blockade Accomplishment. A 15-item PERMA-Profiler was used. This crisis” and “I feel fearful when I think of the blockade crisis.” The scale was developed by Butler and Kern (2016). The scale participants were asked to rate their responses on a 7-point Likert was translated by a bilingual mental health specialist and back scale ranges from 1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree. translated by a certified translator to avoid ambiguity of the items. A CFA showed the suitability of the scale, where RMSEA = 0.022; Participants were asked to report their answers on a 10-point SRMR = 0.006; CFI = 0.99; NFI = 0.99; GFI = 0.99; and TLI = 0.98. scale from 1 = strongly disagree to 10 = strongly agree. The items The internal consistency showed a good reliability (Cronbach’s included “How often do you feel joyful” and “To what extent you a = 0.84). have been feeling loved.” A CFA was carried out and showed an acceptable model fit of the scale, where RMSEA = 0.040; SRMR = 0.003; CFI = 0.97; NFI = 0.97; GFI = 0.98; and TLI = 0.97. Social Identity The internal consistency of the scale was very strong (Cronbach’s To measure national (Qatari) identity, we selected four items a = 0.90). from the Arabic version of the national identity scale developed by Al Rabaani (2017). Such a scale was developed and used for Omani secondary school students in the same education stage Statistical Analysis as their Qatari counterparts. Moreover, since Qatar and Oman To investigate our hypotheses, SPSS Version 26 software have a shared Khaleeji culture, the authors decided to use the was used. Our data were theoretically nested (i.e., pupils same scale with small adaptation where the word “Omani” was were nested within schools). Therefore, we first investigated replaced with “Qatari.” Besides, the scale indicated a very good whether multilevel analyses were warranted. We estimated empty internal consistency in the Omani sample (a = 0.94). Participants (intercept-only) models, which provide insight into the variances were asked to rate the items on a 7-point Likert scale from in our mediator and outcome at the individual and contextual 1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree (for example, “I am levels. We also assessed the intraclass correlations (ICCs) to proud of being Qatari”). A confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) explore if there was substantial between-level variance in the showed the suitability of the scale, where RMSEA = 0.001; scores of our mediator and outcome variable, which would SRMR = 0.001; CFI = 0.99; NFI = 0.99; GFI = 0.99; and TLI = 0.99. warrant the use of multilevel modeling. Taking into account the The internal consistency of the scale was very strong (Cronbach’s higher-level structure did not significantly improve the goodness- a = 0.88). of-fit statistics of each model (i.e., changes in 2  log-likelihood 2 2 To measure supra-regional (Gulf ) identity and ethno-cultural were $ (1) = 1.86, p = 0.17 for self-esteem; and $ (1) = 0.46, (Arab) identity, we used the same scale that was used to assess p = 0.49 for well-being. Additionally, all ICC’s were very small the national identity and replaced the word Qatar with Khaleeji (0.0056 for self-esteem and 0.0028 for well-being), indicating that and Arabi for the two scales. For example, “I am proud of being only 0.56% of the variance in self-esteem and only 0.28% of the Khaleeji” and “I am proud of being Arabi.” A confirmatory factor variance in well-being are due to differences at the school level. analysis for each scale indicated adequate model fit, where the As such, multilevel analyses are not warranted. model fit indices for the Gulf identity scale were RMSEA = 0.088; Pearson correlation coefficients were calculated to explore the SRMR = 0.014; CFI = 0.99; NFI = 0.99; GFI = 0.99; and relationships among the study variables. To test the conditional TLI = 0.99 and those for the Arab identity were RMSEA = 0.098; indirect effects of threat on well-being via self-esteem at different SRMR = 0.021; CFI = 0.98; NFI = 0.98; GFI = 0.99; and TLI = 0.96. levels of social identity, we conducted bootstrap analyses (1,000 Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 4 March 2022 | Volume 13 | Article 750471 fpsyg-13-750471 March 30, 2022 Time: 11:51 # 5 Amin et al. Identity, Threat, and Qatar Blockade TABLE 1 | Correlations among study variables. bootstrap samples) using Hayes’ (2013) Process macro in which the association between the predictor (i.e., threat) and the Measure M SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 mediator (i.e., self-esteem), as well as the associations between the predictor and the outcome variable (i.e., well-being) were Perceived threat 2.91 1.52 – Qatari identity 6.87 0.53 0.02 – moderated by social identity faces (i.e., Model 8; Hayes, 2013). Gulf identity 6.40 0.95 0.02 0.53*** – In particular, we tested three such models, testing the separate buffering effects of national, supra-regional, and ethno-cultural Arab identity 6.61 0.74 0.04 0.60*** 0.66*** – Self-esteem 4.95 0.80 0.13*** 0.27*** 0.26*** 0.29*** – identities, respectively (while controlling for the other two Well-being 7.82 1.49 0.13*** 0.20*** 0.25*** 0.23*** 0.49*** – identity facets). p < 0.10; *p < 0.05; **p < 0.01; ***p < 0.001. RESULTS Finally, as an additional robustness check, we created indices of comparative identity (see Huici et al., 1997). Particularly, we Descriptive Statistics produced variables that compared each facet or “level” of identity Table 1 presents the means, standard deviations, and correlations with the other two and reran the analyses using these comparative between all study variables. At the outset, there were high overall identity scores as moderators. The results are portrayed in levels of all three facets of social identity, and of self-esteem and Table 4 and, interestingly, seem to mirror the original results, as well-being in the sample. The identity facets were all strongly such providing more confidence in our conclusions. Specifically, positively interrelated, and they were all positively related to self- identifying relatively more as Qatari compared to as Khaleeji or esteem and well-being. The mean score for perceived threat—a Arab did not moderate the association between threat and self- 7-point Likert scale—was considerably lower. Furthermore, there esteem, nor did identifying relatively more as Arab compared was no significant relationship between perceived threat and to as Khaleeji or Qatari. The only significant moderator was the identity facets, although threat was significantly negatively identifying relatively more as Khaleeji compared to as Qatari associated with self-esteem and well-being. or Arab. Simple slope analyses indicated that this comparative Gulf identity buffered the negative threat effects, in the sense that the threat effect was considerably lower for those who Predicting Qatari Youth Well-Being most strongly identified with the Gulf area compared with Table 2 portrays the results of the moderated mediation analyses. their level of identification with Qatar or with the whole Arab First, threat (negatively) and each identity facet (positively) world. Put differently, this comparative supranational, regional independently predicted self-esteem. The interaction terms were identity aspect of identifying relatively most with the Gulf area not statistically significant, except for the small yet marginally significantly weakened the psychological effects of the threat significant interaction effect of threat and Gulf identity in the following the blockade, whereas the other two comparative prediction of self-esteem. As predicted, simple slope analyses identities (either at the lower, national or the higher, religious indicated that Gulf identity seemed to buffer the negative threat level) did not exert such moderating effects. In sum, the saliency effects, in the sense that the threat effect was considerably lower of the Gulf identity mattered most. for high Gulf identifiers than for low Gulf identifiers. Notably, the negative effect of threat, although small, was still significant among high Gulf identifiers, indicating that the buffering effect of this overarching social identity is rather limited. For Qatar DISCUSSION and Arab identity, a similar buffering trend was found, but none of the slopes were significantly different between high and The aim of the current study was to investigate the additive low identifiers. and interactive effects of threat and social identity in predicting Second, self-esteem further predicted well-being, and while self-esteem and well-being among Qatari youth. Indeed, it can perceived threat again negatively predicted well-being in each be argued that the 2017 Qatar blockade may have increased model, only Gulf identity was positively related to well-being. feelings of threat, particularly among this group, and whereas None of the interaction terms reached conventional levels such threat perceptions might negatively impact well-being via of significance, and simple slope effects corroborated this by lowered self-esteem, we predicted that an overarching social showing similarly negative effects of threat among low vs. identity might mitigate (i.e., buffer) this negative association. high identifiers. Our results somewhat provided support for this hypothesis. Table 3 further delineates the total, direct, and indirect effects Indeed, the overarching supra-regional identity facet of Gulf of perceived threat on well-being, at different levels of social (Khaleeji) identity not only positively predicted self-esteem identification. The results in each of these models revealed and well-being, it also buffered the negative threat-self-esteem significant total and direct effects of threat on well-being for those association. Specifically, among those identifying more strongly with low, medium, and high levels of social identification alike. with the Gulf region, the threat perceptions accompanying the Importantly, the significant indirect effects point to self-esteem blockade did not relate to lower self-esteem to the same extent as mediator of the threat-well-being relationship. This mediating (as opposed to among low Gulf identifiers). Interestingly, both effect was significant at all levels of (each facet of ) identity. identification with the “lower” national (Qatar) identity facet and Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 5 March 2022 | Volume 13 | Article 750471 fpsyg-13-750471 March 30, 2022 Time: 11:51 # 6 Amin et al. Identity, Threat, and Qatar Blockade TABLE 2 | Unstandardized estimates and 95% confidence intervals of moderated mediation analyses on self-esteem (upper panel) and well-being (lower panel) for each facet of social identity separately. Moderator: Qatar identity Gulf identity Arab Identity Estimate 95% CI Estimate 95% CI Estimate 95% CI Outcome: self-esteem b LL UL b LL UL B LL UL Perceived threat 0.07*** 0.09 0.04 0.07*** 0.09 0.04 0.07*** 0.09 0.04 Social identity 0.23*** 0.14 0.32 0.07** 0.02 0.13 0.15*** 0.07 0.22 Perceived threat  social identity 0.03 0.03 0.08 0.02 0.00 0.05 0.01 0.02 0.04 Threat effect for low identifiers 0.08*** 0.12 0.04 0.09*** 0.12 0.05 0.07*** 0.11 0.04 Threat effect for high identifiers 0.06*** 0.09 0.04 0.05*** 0.08 0.02 0.06*** 0.09 0.03 Outcome: well-being Self-esteem 0.82*** 0.74 0.90 0.82*** 0.74 0.90 0.82*** 0.74 0.91 Perceived threat 0.07*** 0.11 0.03 0.07** 0.11 0.03 0.07** 0.11 0.03 Social identity 0.06 0.11 0.22 0.17*** 0.08 0.27 0.04 0.09 0.16 Perceived threat  social identity 0.03 0.06 0.13 0.01 0.04 0.05 0.00 0.05 0.06 Threat effect for low identifiers 0.09** 0.16 0.02 0.07** 0.13 0.02 0.07** 0.13 0.01 Threat effect for high identifiers 0.06** 0.11 0.02 0.07** 0.11 0.02 0.07** 0.11 0.02 p < 0.10; *p < 0.05; **p < 0.01; ***p < 0.001. LL, lower limit; UL, upper limit. The italics are added to indicate slope effects. TABLE 3 | Unstandardized estimates and 95% confidence intervals of the total, direct, and indirect, effects of perceived threat on well-being via self-esteem, at different levels of each facet of social identity separately. Total Direct Indirect Estimate 95% CI Estimate 95% CI Estimate 95% CI b LL UL b LL UL b LL UL Moderator: Qatar identity Low identity 0.15*** 0.23 0.08 0.09** 0.16 0.02 0.07** 0.11 0.02 Medium identity 0.12*** 0.17 0.08 0.07*** 0.11 0.03 0.05** 0.08 0.03 High identity 0.11*** 0.16 0.07 0.06** 0.11 0.02 0.05** 0.08 0.03 Moderator: gulf identity Low identity 0.14*** 0.21 0.08 0.07** 0.13 0.02 0.07** 0.10 0.04 Medium identity 0.12*** 0.17 0.08 0.07** 0.11 0.03 0.05** 0.08 0.03 High identity 0.11*** 0.16 0.05 0.07** 0.11 0.02 0.04** 0.07 0.02 Moderator: Arab identity Low identity 0.13*** 0.20 0.07 0.07** 0.13 0.01 0.06** 0.10 0.02 Medium identity 0.12*** 0.17 0.08 0.07** 0.11 0.03 0.05** 0.08 0.03 High identity 0.12*** 0.17 0.06 0.07** 0.11 0.02 0.05** 0.08 0.02 p < 0.10; *p < 0.05; **p < 0.01; ***p < 0.001. LL, lower limit; UL, upper limit. with the “higher,” more encompassing ethno-cultural/religious development of such identities in real-world contexts (outside the (Arab) identity facet failed to exert such buffering effect. labs of Western universities, see Huddy, 2001). It is important to note the challenges to social identity theory, as outlined by Huddy Applying Intergroup Threat and Social (2001), also reflect some of the original theorizing by Tajfel et al. Identity Theory to Intergroup Relations in (1971), who emphasized the importance of understanding the role of context when applying the theory to different groups and the Gulf Region to not make the assumption of universality. Nonetheless, a recent It has been argued that social identity theory has not been as cross-cultural meta-analysis including over 20,000 respondents impactful as expected in political psychology due to a focus on across 18 studies/samples found ingroup bias to be a relatively the effects of social identity across group memberships in lab contexts (within Western societies), and a lack of attention on the universal phenomenon (Fischer and Derham, 2016), but with Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 6 March 2022 | Volume 13 | Article 750471 fpsyg-13-750471 March 30, 2022 Time: 11:51 # 7 Amin et al. Identity, Threat, and Qatar Blockade TABLE 4 | Unstandardized estimates and 95% confidence intervals of moderated mediation analyses on self-esteem (upper panel) and well-being (lower panel) for each facet of comparative social identity separately. Moderator: Comparative Qatar identity Comparative Gulf identity Comparative Arab identity Estimate 95% CI Estimate 95% CI Estimate 95% CI Outcome: self-esteem b LL UL b LL UL b LL UL Perceived threat 0.06*** 0.09 0.04 0.07*** 0.09 0.04 0.07*** 0.09 0.04 Social identity 0.17*** 0.23 0.11 0.10*** 0.05 0.16 0.04 0.04 0.11 Perceived threat  social identity 0.03 0.07 01 0.03* 0.00 0.07 0.02 0.06 0.03 Threat effect for low identifiers 0.05** 0.08 0.01 0.09*** 0.12 0.06 0.06*** 0.09 0.03 Threat effect for high identifiers 0.08*** 0.11 0.05 0.04* 0.08 0.01 0.08*** 0.11 0.04 Outcome: well-being Self-esteem 0.87*** 0.79 0.95 0.88*** 0.80 0.96 0.82*** 0.74 0.91 Perceived threat 0.06** 0.11 0.02 0.07** 0.11 0.02 0.07** 0.11 0.02 Social identity 0.21*** 0.31 0.10 0.19*** 0.10 0.28 0.06 0.18 0.06 Perceived threat  social identity 0.00 0.06 0.06 0.00 0.05 0.06 0.01 0.08 0.06 Threat effect for low identifiers 0.06** 0.12 0.01 0.07** 0.12 0.01 0.06** 0.12 0.01 Threat effect for high identifiers 0.06** 0.12 0.01 0.06** 0.12 0.01 0.07** 0.13 0.01 p < 0.10; *p < 0.05; **p < 0.01; ***p < 0.001. L, lower limit; UL, upper limit. The italics are added to indicate slope effects. systematic variance found for countries with differing levels of and although relatedness (a construct closely related to group individualism or collectivism, and uncertainty avoidant contexts. identification) was positively related to well-being, it failed to Importantly, and reflecting limitations found in much of the buffer against the detrimental threat effects—put differently, they literature, no data on Muslim-majority countries were included, also found additive but no interactive effects. thereby limiting the generalizability of the findings. Relatedly, while there is extensive research on the effects of What Do We Know About the Psychology political violence (Palmieri et al., 2008; Muldoon, 2013), less is of Qataris? known about the complex relationship between the perception Compared to studies involving Western samples, there is a lack of threat in socio-political tensions, and the potential buffering of high-quality large-scale datasets concerning populations from effect of identity in its associations with mental health variables Gulf States such as Qatar. Within psychology, and social sciences such as self-esteem. This is especially the case for younger more broadly, the dependence on samples typically from WEIRD populations. In fact, because the blockade of Qatar is experienced populations has limited the cross-cultural generalizability of key as an act of aggression, it can be seen like a perceived threat conceptualizations of the self, motivation, and behavior (Henrich to social identity and national security. In those circumstances, et al., 2010). Nonetheless, there has been an emergence of some people may perceive this threat as a source of anxiety and worry. empirical research on youth well-being from Gulf countries in But when the crisis is well managed, a collective consciousness international psychology literature (Abdel-Khalek, 2011, 2013; can develop protective attitudes and resilient actions to overcome Al-Attiyah and Nasser, 2016; Bedair et al., 2020). the threat by reinvesting and re-constructing their social identity The potential role of the Qatari blockade and its influence on and collective social esteem. youth national, regional, and ethno-cultural identity, self-esteem, Threats to the content and value of group membership and well-being presents a dilemma for political psychology are distinguished in social identity theory (Breakwell, 1983; conceptualizations of intergroup conflict. The combined effects McKeown et al., 2016). When individuals’ social identity is of these variables and their potential association with well-being threatened, they attempt to raise their esteem. Worchel and in Qatari youth is poorly understood. This paper addressed this Coutant (1997) maintain that threats to our identities may come issue, and its results s present a number of interesting findings from out-groups: when such out-groups attack our in-group, in the context of the unique challenges brought about by the this threat can severely worsen our self-worth and well-being. Qatari blockade for Qatari youth. Firstly, it is clear that despite Studies showed that perceived threat to our group identities leads these challenges, young Qataris perceived relatively low levels to intergroup anxiety, and but very few attempted to examine of threat, and scored relatively high on all facets of identity, the potential buffering role the identities we attempt to portray self-esteem, and well-being. In line with our predictions, those may play (Branscombe et al., 1999). An exception can be found who perceived lower levels of threat and had higher levels in the work of Chen et al. (2015). In a South African and a of identification and self-esteem were more likely to report Chinese sample, they found strong effects of (environmental stronger levels of overall well-being. In contrast to prior literature and financial) threat on lower well-being and higher ill-being, suggesting that social identification increases due to perceived Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 7 March 2022 | Volume 13 | Article 750471 fpsyg-13-750471 March 30, 2022 Time: 11:51 # 8 Amin et al. Identity, Threat, and Qatar Blockade threat (Haslam et al., 2005), this model provides no evidence that countries. The Gulf countries participated in huge projects this was directly the case within the Qatari blockade. for rewriting their mutual history, traditions, sports and arts Most importantly, and partly confirming our predictions (Erskine-Loftus et al., 2016). based on a firm theoretical background, this study also found However, the recent Gulf crisis and the blockade of Qatar a (marginally significant) buffering effect of superordinate demonstrated the fragility of this political homogeneity amongst identification with the Gulf region as a whole, but not with them. This crisis has also impacted aspects of identity for Gulf national or Arab identification. This may be due to the relatively countries; especially for Qataris, since the blockade, the threats, untested psychometric properties of the measure used, but it may and the media conflicts -especially on social media- resulted also be attributed to the fact that young Qataris already had in an identity wound, where the Gulf identity was thought to high levels of national identity prior to the blockade. Given the have lost its value and importance as a source of safety and absence of valid and reliable representative data for the mental trust. There was much anecdotal reports and media coverage health of Qatari youth prior to the blockade, it is not possible to regarding the Qatari resilience in response to the blockade, infer direct causal effects of the blockade at present. Nonetheless, and it remains unknown why the specific facet of Khaleeji we put forward that future studies could further explore the identity provided a path to such resilience. It may be related roles of different “levels” of identification. Although all facets to the web of identities fused between Qatari citizens and their of identity positively relate to positive outcomes such as self- fellow GCC countries, and the potentially complex depths of esteem and well-being, only a “medium-level” identity can (to the Khaleeji identity (which itself predates the national GCC a limited extent) buffer against negative effects of intergroup identities; Al-Misned, 2016; Allam and Karolak, 2020). As such, threat perceptions. we claim that the Gulf region is characterized by distinct ingroup- outgroup dynamics, which in itself form an interesting avenue Khaleeji Identity as a “Cure for All”? for future work. For instance, experimental co-ethnic voting On the one hand, a national identity could be too narrow to evidence from Qatar indicates that Qataris have low political offer solace after an impactful event (such as the blockade) that salience of ethnic divisions, and do not exhibit negative prejudice heightens intergroup tensions in the area. As the blockade might against perceived outgroup members (Shockley and Gengler, have especially triggered those strongly identifying with their 2020). Perhaps such low outgroup negativity is the exact reason country, one could have even expected an opposite interaction why a strong Gulf identity is maintained, even in the face effect here, with strong national identification amplifying the of the blockade. threat effects. On the other hand, the superordinate identification Taken together, these nuanced and interlinking identity with all Arabs globally might be too broad to buffer threat effects features could impact the identification of cause-and-effect either. Indeed, the blockade worsened intergroup relations in the relationships between the blockade and different levels of Gulf area only. As a consequence, a strong ethno-cultural identity identity, mental health, and well-being. The interconnected would not be powerful enough to limit the effects of threat on self- nature of Qatari identity within the GCC means that the esteem and well-being. It seems that the overarching identity with shared descent of all stakeholders could be separable from the Gulf area (i.e., the perpetrator of the blockade) is just about the perceived threat of the blockade with respect to other right to buffer against the potential detrimental effects of the factors (i.e., economic problems). It is also possible that Qatari blockade. And even this facet of Khaleeji identity has its limits, as youth were able to set apart their shared identity with the the threat effect remained significant among high Gulf identifiers. blockading GCC countries from the socio-political conflicts In the beginning of the 21st century, the Arab Gulf countries underpinning the blockade. entered a new era, an era during which it drew its power, not only Implications for Education in Qatar through its oil production, but also through possessing cultural capacities (Alsharekh and Springborg, 2012). The Gulf countries The Qatari National Human Rights Committee (QNHRC) in have succeeded in shaping a Gulf identity, as they considered 2017 very clearly highlighted the adverse impact of the blockade doing that was necessary to maintain national, regional, and on all aspects of society, including youth mental health. Coupled international legitimacy (Allam and Karolak, 2020). This identity with a comparatively high prevalence of mental health problems used to provide the citizens of those countries with a sense (Schoenbach et al., 2018; Khaled, 2019), in addition to the of safety, trust, and positive self-image. Historically, the Gulf enduring role of stigma in the region (Ciftci et al., 2013; identity emerged with the establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Zolezzi et al., 2017), there are several educational lessons from Council in 1981. The purpose of this council was presenting a which to strengthen societal understanding of the connections unified vision of the Arab Gulf regarding external political affairs between Qatari youth identity, perceived threats in the present which reflect one Gulf identity. or future, self-esteem, and well-being. Given the salient effects of The Gulf Cooperation Council members worked hard threat and uncertainty on youth mental health, awareness-raising to manifest this idea to a living reality (Lawson, 2012), campaigns and the psychoeducation of how humans react to and they succeeded to a certain extent in doing so. These (perceived) threat can assist in helping young Qataris understand countries have strong social, familial relations, and homogenous their reaction to the blockade, and indeed any future changes. patterns in sports and cultural expression’such as poetry Further initiatives that can solidify and support youth Khaleeji and music that they share. This homogeneity is what identity in the face of (perceived) threats of the blockade are likely makes Gulf countries standout from the rest of Arab to positively impact outcomes for Qatari youth, but more formal Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 8 March 2022 | Volume 13 | Article 750471 fpsyg-13-750471 March 30, 2022 Time: 11:51 # 9 Amin et al. Identity, Threat, and Qatar Blockade evaluations of such interventions are nonetheless advisable. nation of Qatar, the Gulf area, and the Arab world as a whole were Indeed, in order to offset or minimize any potentially adverse all strongly positively associated with self-esteem and well-being, mental health consequences, educational psychologists in Qatar and the specific facet of Gulf (i.e., Khaleeji) identity even buffered may be appropriately placed to facilitate new awareness and against some detrimental threat effects. Given the new forms of psychoeducational campaigns to help young Qataris understand intergroup conflict that are evolving—such as cyberwarfare, or the functionality of identity in all its facets and all its complexity, sanctions and restrictions due to pandemic and/or geopolitical especially in the face of perceived threats and uncertainty. factors—researchers should examine the real-time development of perceived threat among different age cohorts, in addition to embedding other variables that can capture the potential role Strengths and Limitations of individual differences. Additionally, future research should Despite the fact that we used a very large sample from a non- endeavor to collect representative samples from across the Gulf WEIRD country, in a unique context to perform this integrative region to ensure greater comparability across the collective test of three well-known predictors of well-being, there are a literature. This will aid the advancement of a more globally number of methodological considerations in this study. It is representative political psychology where the GCC region can be important to note that the time of data collection for this study appropriately situated. was in mid-2020. Owing to the considerable gap in time between the initial shock of the blockade and the 2020 pandemic, it is conceivable that this time lag effect may have impacted the DATA AVAILABILITY STATEMENT quality of the data. Given the developmental changes of the young Qatari population from the time of the blockade up until this The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be study’s data collection, it is likely that respondents could have made available by the authors, without undue reservation. had different responses during the blockade. It is also possible that Qatari youth consolidated and enhanced their national sense of identity within this time period, but this was not possible ETHICS STATEMENT to retrospectively demonstrate within the methodology of this study. Furthermore, given the nature of the research questions, The studies involving human participants were reviewed it would have been useful to compare data before and after the and approved by the IRB and was obtained from the blockade; but no such data presently exists for the population of Doha Institute for Graduate Studies. The patients/participants interest. Moreover, the psychometric properties of the national provided their written informed consent to participate in this identity measure and also the perceived threat require further study. validation in Gulf populations before concrete interpretations can occur. Especially our measure of threat stands rather far from classic threat scale that tap into a certain symbolic or realistic AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS feeling of threat with outgroup members (mostly newcomers) “taking away” part of the ingroup culture or ingroup socio- AA reviewed the analyzed data and supported the writing of the economic status. Our measure contains more anxiety-related manuscript. JV and DM performed data analysis and supported items referring to the blockade, as such tapping into threat the drafting and editing of the manuscript. JV, AA, and MA coming from outgroups that are not present within the own analyzed the data and drafted the manuscript. DA-A and MA country, but still pose a major concern (particularly in terms of conducted the data collection. JV and YH reviewed the analysis economic threat). A final limitation to be considered is the role of and supported the writing of the manuscript. All authors read and socially desirable responses when interpreting the overall dataset. approved the final manuscript. CONCLUSION FUNDING In the context of intergroup relations within the Gulf area, This publication was made possible by an NPRP-S grant (No. we showed that perceived threat accompanying the 2017 Qatar NPRP11S-0108-180226) from the Qatar National Research Fund blockade was related to Qatari youngsters’ lower well-being via (a member of Qatar Foundation). JV received sponsorship from lower levels of self-esteem. Conversely, identification with the the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO.3E0.2021.0085.0). Abdel-Khalek, A. M. (2013). The relationships between subjective well-being, REFERENCES health, and religiosity among young adults from Qatar. Ment. Health Religion Abdel-Khalek, A. M. (2011). Religiosity, subjective well-being, self- Cult. 16, 306–318. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17041369 esteem, and anxiety among Kuwaiti Muslim adolescents. Ment. Al Rabaani, A. (2017). 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C., Austin, W. G., and Worchel, S. (1979). An integrative the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in theory of intergroup conflict. Organ. Identity Read. 56, 65. this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or Ulrichsen, K. C. (2020). Qatar and the Gulf Crisis: A Study of Resilience. endorsed by the publisher. Available online at: https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr= &id=jqXaDwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&ots=NrZ0y4mim8&sig= Copyright © 2022 Amin, Van Assche, Abdelrahman, McCashin, Al-Adwan c9ANUBhu200MbhisdXVUVcyldm4 (accessed January 19, 2021). and Hasan. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of Van Assche, J., Asbrock, F., Dhont, K., and Roets, A. (2018). The diversity challenge the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution for high and low authoritarians: multilevel and longitudinal effects through or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) intergroup contact and threat. Pers. Soc. Psychol. Bull. 44, 1163–1179. doi: and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication 10.1177/0146167218764653 in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No Wiegand, K. (2012). Bahrain, Qatar, and the Hawar Islands: resolution of a Gulf use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with territorial dispute. Middle East J. 66, 79–96. these terms. Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 11 March 2022 | Volume 13 | Article 750471

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