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A Comparative Study of Initial Involvement in Gangs and Political Extremism

Pathways to radicalisationRadicalisation

There is a paucity of research comparing gang members and domestic extremists and extant studies find few explicit linkages. Despite this, there remains a great deal of interest in possible similarities between these criminal groups.

Driving this interest is the possibility of adapting policies and practices aimed at preventing entry into criminal groups. A critical first step to determining compatibility is to examine the circumstances of the individuals who enter these organizations and better describe the entry processes.

This study provides a unique comparison of entry into these groups by drawing on four broad empirically derived mechanisms of group entry using forty-five in-person interviews of U.S. gang members and thirty-eight life history narratives of individuals who radicalized in the United States.

Our results reveal that each of the four conceptual categories appeared to influence initial involvement; however, no single mechanism described involvement in criminal groups or differentiated involvement across the gangs and extremist groups.

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