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Promoting Tolerance to Personal Uncertainty: An Exploratory Study of a Preventative Universal Intervention

27 November 2019

Author: Peter D’Lima - Doctorate in Educational Psychology (DEdPsy), Cardiff University, 2019


The spate of terror attacks occurring in the UK and abroad has led to an increased focus on ways to prevent young people (YP) being radicalised and/or being drawn into terrorism.

This study endeavoured to promote resilience to radicalisation in young people by adopting the perspective of reactive approach motivation (RAM) theory.

RAM theory attributes the move towards ideological extremes as a way of alleviating personal uncertainty that occurs in response to motivational conflict. There is a robust evidence base to support the role of RAM theory in promoting ideological extremes.

The thesis is divided into two studies and employed a mixed-methods methodology.

Study 1 involved the development of a universal programme to promote resilience to radicalisation by strengthening tolerance of personal uncertainty and Study 2 was the implementation and evaluation of that programme.

Six educational psychologists (EPs) participated in Study 1 and a six-session programme called Embrace Life was developed to undergo two consecutive pilots in a Welsh and English secondary school in Study 2. Two Year 8 classes participated in the pilots (N =54).

Embrace Life had no significant impact on scores on the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale for Children (IUSC). However, the qualitative findings revealed key benefits for the YP involved including perceptions of increased psychological flexibility, reflectiveness, acceptance, and assertiveness.

Furthermore, the universal approach facilitated the normalisation of uncertainty and other difficulties for some. The key challenges that were perceived are ones that could be remedied and include: increased engagement with school and home systems; conducting the programme in smaller groups to reduce self-consciousness and increase engagement; and the upgrading of the programme content to include more real-life connections. Implications for promoting resilience to radicalisation are discussed and the relevance for EP practice illustrated.


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