What factors are truly associated with risk for radicalisation? A secondary data analysis within a UK sample

Elizabeth Rose Ahearn, Kamaldeep Bhui*, Edgar Jones

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Radicalisation and extremist violence are of increasing concern internationally. The unconventional, decentralised, and transnational nature of modern terrorism involves an active process of radicalisation requiring national security responses to reflect findings from recent empirical research. This study aims to identify factors that relate to extremist attitudes and potential vulnerability to radicalisation in order to inform preventative action. A cross-sectional survey was conducted of a representative population sample of men and women aged 18–45 of Muslim heritage recruited by quota sampling in two English cities. Logistic regressions were performed on a seven-item dichotomised measure based on our previously developed scale of ‘sympathy for terrorist acts’. Scores representing ‘non-condemnation of these acts’ were deemed to represent risk for radicalisation. Thirteen respondents had a positive score on the sympathy for terrorism measure (2.4%), 39 scored zero (6.41%) and the remainder (91.4%) had a negative score representing condemnation of terrorist acts. There was a significant association between sympathy for terrorism and belonging to the local or global Muslim community, anxiety, and support for the use of defensive violence. Gender, religious identity, country of birth, belief in Sharia law, the importance of religion in life, and mosque attendance were all not associated with sympathy for terrorism. The results contribute to an understanding of the radicalisation process and have potential value in developing preventative public health interventions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTranscultural Psychiatry
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2020


  • attitudes
  • extremism
  • mental health
  • radicalisation
  • religion
  • terrorism


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