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Exposure to Political Violence and Individual Behavior

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - EXPOVIBE (Exposure to Political Violence and Individual Behavior)

Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2020-03-31

EXPOVIBE explores the individual level effects of being exposed to political violence in a civil conflict context. For this purpose, two independent, large-n survey studies have been designed and conducted in Turkey to specifically analyze:
a) whether those exposed to political violence in a civil conflict context are more likely to be perpetrators of domestic violence against their intimate partners;
b) whether and how exposure to political violence impacts upon economic behavior, choices and attitudes like risk, time and social preferences, savings behavior, employment, career choices, entrepreneurship, and earnings;
c) whether and how exposure to political violence affects political behavior, attitudes and choices like political participation, political tolerance, political support, ideology, voting behavior, and party choice;
d) whether and how exposure to political violence affects social behavior, attitudes and choices like parochialism and trust in others and institutions;
e) whether and how exposure to political violence affects psychological and physical health.

Intra-state civil conflicts have replaced inter-state ones as the dominant forms of organized violence that shape our world. Civil conflicts are humanitarian disasters. They kill and injure millions of people, and leave many more destitute. And unfortunately, these immediate sufferings are just the tip of the iceberg of the true human costs of civil conflicts. Civil conflicts expose individuals to gruesome violence either as witnesses, victims or perpetrators, and create an acceptable climate for violence, reduce individuals’ inhibitions against violent acts, and lead to the normalization of violence in everyday life. It is very likely that such experiences affect people psychologically, and that these effects manifest themselves in different ways in interpersonal relations, and in economic and political life even long after the conflict is over. The development of a thorough understanding of these long-term impacts and the mechanisms they have behind is a precondition for devising effective preventive and counteractive policies. Nevertheless, there exist few studies analyzing individual level data on actual exposure to political violence in a civil conflict context to decipher the effects on behavior, and we are still far from a complete understanding of the true extent of the damages civil conflicts inflict upon host societies. EXPOVIBE aims to contribute to that crucial understanding in very significant and important ways by focusing on how exposure to civil conflict violence impacts upon individual behavior in interpersonal relations, and in economic, social and political activities. For this purpose, two large-n survey studies have been designed and conducted in Turkey. The first study surveyed some 6400 married Turkish women between the ages 25 and 50, and focused on intimate partner violence.
The second study surveyed 5000 adult Turkish men to study the association between exposure to political violence and social, economic and political behavior. The surveys were conducted in the form of face-to-face interviews.
EXPOVIBE is innovative in several respects. First of all, it employs a natural experiment setting that arises out of the military institutions and the long running civil conflict in Turkey. Such a setting is extremely valuable for an empirical study because by removing endogeneity concerns it allows causal inference. But a natural experiment setting is also very rare. So much so that EXPOVIBE is the first to take advantage of a natural experiment setting to study the social, economic and political consequences of a civil conflict. Second, the project is designed to simultaneously analyze multiple important questions that concern several disciplines. Relatedly, it contributes to the much-needed understanding of the dynamics and consequences of civil conflicts in very significant and important ways. Such an understanding is crucial if we are to develop effective policies of prevention and recovery for conflict-stricken societies. Third, this is the first study to analyze the long-term association between exposure to political violence and intimate partner violence against women. Intimate partner violence against women is a very common and serious public health and human rights issue. Consequently, understanding its causes and correlates is of utmost importance. The project is also innovative in its double-angled approach to this important issue from the perspectives of both the possible perpetrators and the victims of intimate partner violence against women. Finally, this study is innovative in terms of the richness of its data. Most existing microlevel studies from conflict areas are marred by the use of small respondent samples of limited representativeness whereas EXPOVIBE provides and builds its conclusions on large-n, representative and novel data sets.
EXPOVIBE involves two large-n surveys to be designed and conducted in Turkey, and accordingly the first work package that was scheduled for the first 18 months of the project was the design of these surveys. In this work package we conducted a thorough review of related literatures and works.
As was foreseen in the DoA, I organized and conducted two workshops in Istanbul on April 20 and April 27, 2018 respectively. Both workshops focused on the survey on intimate partner violence (IPV). In organizing and conducting these workshops I collaborated with the Center for Gender and Women’s Studies of Sabancı University (SUGender). Tapping into the network and resources of the Center, I got in touch with and hosted at my workshops some of the leading field experts on IPV against women in Turkey. The first workshop focused on the questionnaire. In an all-day-long group discussion, we deliberated on how best to achieve congruence between the aims of the project and the questionnaire; the best and ethically and scientifically correct ways of asking female respondents questions on IPV in the Turkish context; the wording and ordering of questions; and the potentially sensitive issues in implementation. The second workshop was completely geared towards designing the training program for interviewers. The outcome of the workshop was a four-part training module composed of first a theoretical briefing on IPV, followed by a part on how to effectively and correctly communicate with IPV victims, then a third part on the questionnaire and its implementation, and a final part on field organization and possible problems on the field and how to deal with them. It was also strongly recommended by participants that the first two parts of the training should be given by an expert clinical psychologist with extensive experience on dealing with IPV victims. In accordance with this recommendation, I collaborated with a clinical psychologist with extensive field and clinical experience with trauma and IPV victims. She accompanied me to all training sessions and held lectures with all interviewers on IPV and communicating with IPV victims.
My project had a scheduled interim ethics review at the ERCEA in November 2018. In the summer months of 2018 I worked on preparing and submitting all the required documents and explanations for this review.
Once my project received ethics clearance, I embarked on the actual implementation of the field work. In January 2019, I conducted the pilot study for the survey on IPV with 261 female respondents. The information I gathered from the pilot study enabled me to put the final touches on the survey documents and on the interviewer training module. I then gave start to the main field implementation. Starting from Ankara on February 21st, 2019, we sequentially held one-day training sessions in 9 field centers (Istanbul, Ankara, Bursa, Antalya, Konya, Denizli, Samsun, Zonguldak, Kayseri) trained all the interviewers that were to take part in the study. I then accompanied each and every interviewer on her first day on the field for her first interviews. Field work lasted for two months and was completed by April 22nd without any problem. Then the questionnaires went through quality controls and coding, and the electronic dataset was ready on May 27th, 2019. This is an impressive data set that includes the completely anonymized answers of some 6397 female respondents. I presented the first preliminary findings at the 19th Jan Tinbergen European Peace Science Conference at the Hague on June 24th, 2019.
The pilot study of the second survey started on the third week of June. As discussed in detail in the DoA, this second survey included field games. This is a very unconventional methodology in the sense that no one had so far implemented such games on the field with such high number of participants individually. Throughout the summer, I travelled through all the 9 field centers sequentially and trained each and every one of the interviewers that were to take part in the field work. And as with the first survey, I accompanied each interviewer on his first day on the field through the first interviews. As of October 18th, we completed the field work with success. Now, we are conducting quality controls and I am expecting the data set to be ready by December.
Even though I am only half way through and have only been collecting data so far, my project has already produced very significant scientific contributions and outputs. First of all, both questionnaires that I developed are the outcomes of extensive collaboration among experts and are pioneering works in terms of the novel measurement tools and approaches they contain. The questionnaire for the survey on IPV measures a wide spectrum of abusive behavior ranging from economic to sexual abuse as well as more contemporary forms like technological/cyber abuse. Moreover, the questionnaire is designed carefully to make sure that all of these behaviors are measured in the most efficient, compact and least intrusive and disturbing way. Similarly, the questionnaire for the second survey with male respondents is very rich in terms of the array of behaviors and attitudes measured. As I also mentioned above, it is also the first to employ field games to individual participants on such a large scale. Both of these questionnaires have been tested extensively in pilot studies and I personally went on the field with each interviewer to make sure that they were implemented correctly. I am sure my questionnaires will prove to be a good resource for future studies. Of course, the most important outcome so far has been the data that I have collected. I am very much anxious to start analyzing these rich and impressive data sets, and I am sure they will be the source of numerous important scientific works to come in the very near future.