What causes violent radicalization?

Violent radicalization is a gradual and individual process, the background of which is influenced by multiple factors. Radicalisation does not take place only on an individual level, but it is strongly related to social development. Identifying radicalization is often challenging as there ate no predefined paths or lists of predisposing factors to radicalization. Anyone can become radicalized, but young people struggling with their own identity and testing their limits are particularly vulnerable. Young people are susceptible to various influences, and youth as a life stage entails reflection on one’s own world of values, the need for acceptance and the desire to belong to a community or group.

Societal uncertainty and grievances can drive individuals towards a violent mindset

Radicalization is often spurred by strong experiences of injustice and social grievances that have arisen over a long period of time play a role in radicalization. On one hand these experiences can be felt on a personal level, but they can also connected to the broader social framework and relations between the groups. For example, the experience of belonging to sociall subordinate ethnic or religious group, or the experience of being treated unfairly by the authorities, can fuel violent inclinations in one’s mindset. The experiences of social grievances can also encourage action to change the situation while providing a justification for adopting violent attitudes and thinking. According to research, experiences of unfair treatment and humilitation are in general strongly connected to violent behaviour.

Violent ideologies often offer simple and easy answers to difficult and complex questions, which is why they can appeal to many. In an unstable world situation, there is a lot of uncertainty about the future, which can produce an unpleasant feeling of being out of control. This feeling can be relieved by a simple and commonly shared world view. When ideology provides a clear framework for interpreting the present and the future, it is easier to navigate in life. At the same time, such a shared world view enables the creation of a new identity, and can therefore offer a person who is disappointed in one’s life an escape and a new opportunity. In this way, it also meets the fundamental psychological need for belonging and offers meaningful experiences.

Close personal relationships can also serve as a motivation for embracing a violent mindset

One can begin to adapt violent ideas and thinking also through social networks, such as friends and relatives. Especially for young people, it is important to feel to be part of a group, and peer relationships are at the core of gaining meaningful experiences. Young person can therefore begin to adapt violent ideology not only through social relationships, but through simply longing for close human relationships.