How & Why Are Children Mobilized Into Violence

Preventing the Next Generation: Mapping the Pathways of Children’s Mobilization into Violent Extremist Organizations

In recent years, non-state violent extremist organizationsNext Generation (VEOs) have increasingly mobilized children into their ranks. In October 2013 over 100 Afghani and Pakistani children were kidnapped to be trained as suicide bombers. On 17 November 2013, Afghan police had pre-empted a 12-year old bomber in the Panjwai district of Kandahar; the child was wearing an explosive vest en route to a girls’ school. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) are training young children for front line engagement as ‘Cubs of the Caliphate’ and children have moved from being bystanders to fully engaged militants in the Caliphate.

Evidence of children’s mobilization into violent extremist groups continues to increase. Online music videos extol the virtues of martyrdom to teens, and abundant television programming aimed at instilling the desire to be a shahid has spread throughout the Arab and Islamic world. Children’s soccer teams, streets, parks, and camps are named after suicide bombers. In diaspora communities, efforts at grooming the next generation of militants has been uncovered in the US and UK. Teen-aged girls have disappeared from London, France and Scandinavia to join IS in Raqqa as Jihadi Brides.

This project is a 3-year program of basic research that will identify the specific processes and pathways of children’s mobilization into terrorist movements and create a model of children’s involvement in violent extremist organizations (VEOs). Specific detailed cases will be developed using primary and secondary data for Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel/Palestine, Iraq, Syria and Somalia in conjunction with regional partners who will facilitate the collection of interview data by local social workers and therapists. The project will generate an empirically valid model that can explain children’s involvement in VEOs and inform practices, policies, training, and further research aimed at developing evidence-based interventions at multiple levels.

PI and Point of Contact: Mia Bloom (