Panel 4: Constraints and Protections

Chair: Paul Grasby

LT 1, Wednesday 20th, 0900-1100

James Lewis & Sarah Marsden

Research Fellow | CSTPV | University of St Andrews

Case managed interventions countering radicalisation to violence: Strengths-based approaches

Session: Panel 4: Constraints & protections (LT1)

The field of countering violent extremism (CVE) has long been dominated by interventions that focus on assessing and managing risk. However, in recent years, there has been growing interest in the potential applicability of strengths-based interventions to work in this space. In contrast to approaches that are more orientated towards identifying and mitigating risk factors, strengths-based approaches focus on an individual’s abilities, and work towards developing individual, social and ecological protective factors as a mechanism for promoting desistance.This paper presents the conceptual framework that informs a systematic review of tools and approaches used to counter radicalisation to violence. It draws on the principles of case management to address a number of key challenges in the field including a lack of systematic research looking across different stages of interventions; a largely atheoretical and uneven evidence base that focuses on some areas (e.g. risk assessment) and neglects others (e.g. case planning); and difficulties identifying the underlying logic of case managed interventions and the extent to which they adhere to risk- or strengths-based approaches. By looking in more detail at strengths-oriented approaches, the paper argues that significant gains are possible by interrogating the underlying logic of interventions and examining the extent to which they are able to support positive outcomes in the context of broader case-management processes.

Co-authors: Anne Peterscheck, University of St Andrews


Sarah Marsden

Senior Lecturer | University of St Andrews

Conceptualising protective factors and constraints on violence: A strengths-based approach

Session: Panel 4: Constraints & protections (LT1)

Drawing together approaches from criminology, subcultural theory, and terrorism studies, this paper presents a conceptual framework for interpreting the constraints and protections which limit the potential for violence. Efforts to interpret what reduces the likelihood of someone engaging in political violence are only now coming to the fore. Of the limited research carried out to date, attention has largely focused on individual-level protective factors. However, there is a lack of consensus over how protective factors should be conceptualised. Equally, with a few notable exceptions, the subcultural factors which may constrain violence have not been considered in detail. Informed by strengths-based approaches, this paper presents a framework that offers a more systematic way of interpreting constraints and protections and locating the sites where they are at work. These include promotive factors, or individual capacities and features of someone’s social-ecological context which enable them to fulfil needs and achieve goals normatively; within extremist subcultures by affording protections from challenging experiences or contexts; through the opportunities they provide to pursue intrinsically rewarding goals in ways which do not necessitate violence or illegality; and through constraints informed by the structure of subcultural capital that may prioritise counter-normative but legal practices over violence or law-breaking.

Co-authors: Benjamin Lee, University of St Andrews


Bettina Rottweiler

Postdoctoral researcher | University College London

Meta-analysis of Risk and Protective Factors for Conspiracy Beliefs

Session: Panel 4: Constraints & protections (LT1)

COVID-19 conspiracy theories and conspiracy theories related to other areas, such as Anti-Semitism, right-wing extremism, anti-Government sentiments as well as more generic conspiracy theories have shown to exert adverse effects for individuals and society alike. Conspiracy beliefs have shown to negatively impact individuals’ mental health and well-being on a large scale but also pose a threat to liberal democracies.

To synthesise the evidence base of the antecedents of conspiracy beliefs, we are conducting a meta-analysis on the psychological, cognitive and personality correlates of belief in conspiracy theories. We provide insights into the most pertinent risk and protective factors for conspiracy beliefs and more specifically, we examine which factors are particularly strong predictors for different conspiracy theories, e.g., COVID-19 conspiracy theories, groups-specific or more generic conspiracy theories.

We aim to answer the following research questions:

What are the psychological, cognitive and personality correlates of conspiracy beliefs?

Are there any differences in risk and protective factors when examining specific types of conspiracy theories? 

Are there any differences in risk and protective factors when it comes to COVID-19 vs non-COVID-19 conspiracy theories?

Co-authors: Professor Paul Gill, University College London


Joel Busher

Professor | Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations | Coventry University

The escalation and inhibition of violence during waves of far right or anti-minority protests: An analysis of key relational mechanisms

Session: Panel 4: Constraints & protections (LT1)

While many far right or anti-minority protest events result in relatively little, or only low level, physical violence, in recent years, several countries across Europe and North America have seen protests by far right or anti-minority groups that have resulted in extensive violence – causing significant security and public order concerns. So why do we see physical violence escalate well beyond ‘normal’ levels during some waves of far right or anti-minority protest and not others, and what can policymakers, practitioners and other stakeholders do to help inhibit instances of violent escalation? This paper reports on a recent project that set out to address these questions. The project traced the pathways towards and away from violence during four periods of intense far right or anti-minority activism – Dover, UK (September 2014 – April 2016), Sunderland, UK (September 2016 – December 2018), Chemnitz, Germany (August – December 2018) and Charlottesville, USA (February – July 2017). Using within- and across-case comparison, the project then identified relational mechanisms that appear to have led towards or away from violent escalation. This paper will summarise key findings and discuss their possible implications for academic and policy-practitioner communities.

Co-authors: Gareth Harris, Independent Researcher; Julie Ebner, Institute for Strategic Dialogue; Zsófia Hacsek and Graham

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