Understanding Changes in Violent Extremist Attitudes During the Transition to Early Adulthood

Lea Echelmeyer, A.E. Nivette*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Objectives The current study seeks to explain changes in support for violent extremism
during the transition to early adulthood. This period during the life course could increase
uncertainty and vulnerability to radicalization, or alternatively lead to maturation, proso-
cial bonds, and consequently less support for violent extremism. In the absence of popula-
tion-based longitudinal data on violent extremist attitudes, we know very little about how
and why attitudes change during this period.
Method Data came from an ongoing longitudinal cohort study in Zürich, Switzerland
(n = 910). First, we assessed the variation in violent extremist attitudes between ages 17
and 20 using the Reliable Change Index. Second, we used hybrid regression techniques to
investigate to what extent theoretically relevant factors can explain between- and within-
individual differences in violent extremist attitudes.
Results Our results show that violent extremist attitudes are largely stable or declining
between late adolescence and early adulthood, and that within-individual changes in low
self-control, conflict coping skills, and peer disapproval of violence can in part explain
these changes.
Conclusions For young people in Zürich, the transition to early adulthood was character-
ized by increases in psychosocial maturity, more prosocial peers, and less deviant behavior,
which in turn was associated with lower support for violent extremism. Existing research
on effective interventions for criminal desistance and disengagement from gangs may
therefore be fruitful avenues for developing programs aimed at reducing support for violent
extremism and fostering deradicalization.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Quantitative Criminology
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

Keywords

  • Violent extremist attitudes
  • Radicalization
  • Deradicalization
  • Maturation
  • Strain

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