Understanding How and Why Young People Enter Radical or Violent Extremist Groups

Nele Schils, Antoinette Verhage


The process of (violent) radicalisation and subsequently joining of radical or violent extremist groups was studied using semi-structured interviews with (young) people who considered themselves as radicals or violent extremists in left-wing, right-wing or religious settings. The data was gathered in Belgium from March through November 2013. Though modest in number (12), the interviews tell us a lot about factors that play a role in (violent) radicalisation and the organisation of radical or violent extremist groups through online and offline recruitment and daily activities. The results of the interviews are linked to the existing theoretical frameworks on (violent) radicalisation, including factors underlying engagement and recruitment. They show that new social media are not as relevant as currently asserted, but that offline methods of recruitment are still uppermost. They also make clear that the content of the ideology is not the first impetus for searching, but that a general discontent with society comes first, a search for ways of dealing with this discontent, and an orientation associated with the search. This has implications for the way society should deal with young people and radical convictions and the alternatives that should be provided.


radicalisation, extremist groups, new social media, internet

Full Text:


DOI: 10.4119/UNIBI/ijcv.473

Copyright (c) 2017 International Journal of Conflict and Violence


International Journal of Conflict and Violence (ISSN 1864-1385) - Imprint