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Comunicar Journal 71: Hate speech in communication: Research and proposals (Vol. 30 - 2022)

Adolescents’ motivations to perpetrate hate speech and links with social norms


Sebastian Wachs

Alexander WeJEtstein

Ludwig Bilz

Manuel Gámez-Guadix


Hate speech has become a widespread phenomenon, however, it remains largely unclear why adolescents engage in it and which factors are associated with their motivations for perpetrating hate speech. To this end, we developed the multidimensional “Motivations for Hate Speech Perpetration Scale” (MHATE) and evaluated the psychometric properties. We also explored the associations between social norms and adolescents’ motivations for hate speech perpetration. The sample consisted of 346 adolescents from Switzerland (54.6% boys; Mage=14; SD=0.96) who reported engagement in hate speech as perpetrators. The analyses revealed good psychometric properties for the MHATE, including good internal consistency. The most frequently endorsed subscale was revenge, followed by ideology, group conformity, status enhancement, exhilaration, and power. The results also showed that descriptive norms and peer pressure were related to a wide range of different motivations for perpetrating hate speech. Injunctive norms, however, were only associated with power. In conclusion, findings indicate that hate speech fulfills various functions. We argue that knowing the specific motivations that underlie hate speech could help us derive individually tailored prevention strategies (e.g., anger management, promoting an inclusive classroom climate). Furthermore, we suggest that practitioners working in the field of hate speech prevention give special attention to social norms surrounding adolescents.


Hate speech, cyberhate, motives, social norms, injunctive norms, peer pressure

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