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What makes a young person vulnerable to extremism?

What has emerged from research is that there is no one factor that makes a young person vulnerable to becoming involved in extremism or adopting an extremist ideology, it is rather a combination of different influences and experiences. The list below is drawn from a number of different sources and is by no means comprehensive.

  • To provide answers to questions of identity, faith and belonging
  • For adventure and excitement
  • To enhance self esteem or promote ‘street cred’
  • As a result of identifying with a charismatic individual or becoming involved in a group which offers identity, a social network and support
  • As a result of social isolation, poverty and lack of opportunity
  • Un- or underemployment
  • Fuelled by a sense of grievance (e.g. against foreign policy, or after experiences of racism and discrimination)
  • Fulfils the need for mental/intellectual rigour
  • Rite of passage, fighting for a cause, rebellion
  • The ‘attractive’ nature of the imagery of the freedom fighter or the ‘cult’ of the martyr
  • As a result of personal crisis, especially where this involves significant tensions in a family which produces a sense of isolation from the traditional certainties of family life
  • The need for protection
  • As a family or father substitute

Many of these factors are shared between those who have become involved in ISIS associated violent extremism, and those associated with racist or far right groups. More information can be found in the Learning together to be safe toolkit – details of how to access this is included in the Further Resources section of this resource site.


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