Early Intervention with Violent and Racist Youth Groups

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Racist groups and skinhead gangs usually recruit among very young people. In most cases, such adolescents do not join racist groups because they are racists initially. Racist ideology is usually adopted as a consequence rather than being a cause for joining the group. These tight-knit and secluded groups are attractive to some youths because they fulfil several of their social and psychological needs in terms of providing identity, community, protection, and excitement - quite normal needs that they have not got fulfilled in ordinary contexts. However, joining such a group has severe consequences in terms of being socialized into an extremist worldview and a violent and criminal style of behaviour. In its turn, this may lead to victimisation of others as well as to their own social marginalisation. Fortunately, most of those who have joined the racist scene do disengage sooner or later. Our goal should be that they quit sooner rather than later - before they hurt others; before they have internalised a racist worldview and a violent pattern of behaviour; and before they have ruined their own future by getting a criminal record and a Nazi stigma. How can this be accomplished? The present text provides insights into the processes and motivations involved in group formation and joining, as well as into group cohesiveness and disintegration, and the processes whereby individual members disengage or are unable to do so. Various forms of interaction between the group and the social environment will also have great impact on the fate of the group and its members. These are all processes and mechanisms that can be influenced through prevention and intervention measures - and more effectively so if action is based on knowledge of both the general phenomenon as well as of the local situation. It also provides a detailed description of several intervention methods and programmes that have been developed to address problems of violent and/or racist youth groups and violence, and that have been demonstrated to have some success in that respect. The main target groups are youth workers, social workers, teachers, police officers, municipal administrators, policy makers and other practitioners who are in positions where they have to handle emerging problems of racist and violent youth groups, as well as students to these professions.


Tore Bjørgo, Yngve Carlsson

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