Ideological Transmission I: Families (Full Report)

Ideological Transmission I: Families (Full report)

This CREST report is the first of a series of synthetic reviews on ideological transmission produced by Kim Knott and Benjamin Lee. It focuses on the family as a context for ideological transmission, and includes case studies on extremism and terrorism. Later reports will consider education and peers, and religious and political organisations.

Ideological Transmission I: Families (Full Report)
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The reviews bring together and summarise open source, social science research on ideological transmission. They draw on literature from religious studies, social psychology, sociology, political science, education, anthropology and security studies, and address the following research questions:

  • How is political and religious ideology passed on between and across generations and to newcomers?
  • Who is responsible for ideological transmission?
  • Where and when does ideological transmission take place?
  • How do these issues apply to the transmission of extremist and terrorist ideologies?

This first report synthesizes arguments and findings from more than a hundred books and articles. It is divided into three principal sections, on the theoretical background, empirical approaches, and case studies on ideological transmission and families in the context of extremism and terrorism.

The relationship between the family and ideological transmission is complex. There is some evidence that ideology can pass down through the generations, but this is by no means a foregone conclusion. Many factors can intervene and affect this process, and some items are more effectively transmitted than others.

Evidence from real world accounts of terrorists and extremists have tended to see the family either as an organisational connector between individuals and terrorist or extremist groups, or as a potent source of collective memory, grievance and tradition. In some cases, individuals adopted the ideological commitments of their parents; in others they rebelled against them. Some parents shared the grievances of their children, but others criticised and challenged them. In all cases, the role of the family was highly context dependent.

This report is the first of three in which we address the questions of how, what, where and by whom ideology is transmitted, and how this manifests for those involved in extremism and terrorism. In the next, we will turn to education and peer-to-peer transmission.


Both the executive summary and full report are available to download for free.

Ideological Transmission I: Families (Full Report)You can download the full report for free here CREST Report: The Family and Ideological Transmission (Full Report).

You can find the executive summary of the report here.
These reports are products from the ‘Ideas, Beliefs And Values In Social Context’ programme, led by Professor Kim Knott at Lancaster University. The project was funded by the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats. You can read more about the project here.

This report was updated on 10/4/18 to correct some errors in the references. The latest version of the report is 16-022-04.

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