U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Identity Crisis and Terrorism - Social Pychological Aspects of Personal Characteristics of Terrorism (From Causes of Terrorism in the Federal Republic of Germany, P 79-98, 1978, Hans-Dieter Schwind, ed. - See NCJ-72531)

NCJ Number
L Veelken
Date Published
20 pages
The possibility that terrorism is caused by adolescent identity crises is explored.
Successful development of identity depends on progression through a series of phases, on balance between personal and social identity, and on identification with a group. An identity crisis is precipitated by failure of an individual to fulfill the tasks of a particular developmental phase, by alienation and egocentrism, and by involvement with a group which prevents identity development. Children rejected by their contemporaries are likely to develop feelings of inferiority. Identity disturbances in puberty may relate to sexual intimacy, choice of profession, competition, and psychosocial definition of the self. The result of such difficulties is flight into hero worship and support of revolutionary overthrow of the status quo. Inability to form intimate relationships is likely to give rise to feelings of isolation. Individuals who always act only to please others but never themselves become alienated. Overaccentuation of personal identity leads to egocentrism; in trying to change the world egocentric individuals soon disregard the wishes of others and all sense of community. At the same time, such individuals have weak identities and seek out stronger groups to give them support. A severe crisis results when a group functioning as a total institution hinders evolution of its individual members' identities. The best preventive measure is to provide individual assistance outside schools for juvenile floundering in search of identities. The social causes of identity crises should also be eliminated, and social justice should remain a primary goal. --in German.