Evaluating the Role of Families in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism | Citizen Support

Radicalization into violent extremism and terrorism remain an increasingly high threat to global security as well as social cohesion. Families are often at the center of issues and challenges related to extremism. When an individual becomes radicalized, and begins to elicit extremist behavior, it not only has an impact on the person, but also their family, friends, and community.

Children and especially young people, are a vital source of recruitment by violent extremist organizations (VEOs). VEOs recruit using a variety of techniques, including deception, kidnapping, human trafficking, and force. Others join freely because of the allure of a shared identity, the promise of economic security, sentiments of exclusion, grievances, and personal ties such as family networks. These techniques have been made easy through online propaganda and the use of social media.

Preventing recruitment is one of the most effective ways to counter terrorism. An effective approach necessitates the detection of early signs of radicalization, and the mitigation of individual grievances. Key actors, including families, need to be involved in the efforts to prevent and counter the spread of radicalization and recruitment.

Why are Families Important in PCVE?

The response to the challenge of violent extremism requires a multi-pronged approach that extends beyond security and involves the whole community. Families are an important source of resilience against violent extremism, and their efforts in countering extremism is increasingly being recognized.

Firstly, families can influence family members’ behaviors towards non-violence. Peer groups and social networks in general have a significant influence in enabling or hindering processes of radicalization into extremism. Positive social networks are crucial for maintaining peaceful norms and overcoming VE and, as research shows, families are an important form of social networks responsible for providing support, guidance, and context when children and young people start questioning realities in the world around them. Parental influence is especially important because when a parent has less influence in their children’s decision-making, then they are highly likely to be inefficient in guarding their children in cases of radicalization into extremism.