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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 Al Qaida-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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