During the August of 2011, the world was in uproar about the images that were presented on our television screens. Over a time period of just five days around 15,000 people rioted, looting and damaging town centres across England. Tragically, five people lost their lives and due to the looting, many more people lost their businesses and homes. Over the short period of time, the financial cost to the country was around half a billion pounds. This assignment will start with the key research and the reasons why the riots took place, what was put in place to prevent it happening again and will then follow with a research proposal in order to undergo a study involving the 2011 riots.

It is evident, that one of the main questions to arise was what could possibly have caused such wanton looting and somewhat senseless violence within one of the most advanced and diverse cities in the world. Amongst MPs it was evident that the dominant mood was anger, , in light of the outrage, there were only a few MPs that suggested factors such as, poverty and unemployment were to blame and clearly needed to be addressed. The debate amongst MPs became problematic and highly political, and they were not in a place to discuss people, problems and solutions. I think here is where psychological knowledge needs to be addressed and rescue the debate from such simplistic formulations, the purpose of this assignment, as mentioned above is to describe current psychological knowledge and how it can be used to understand looting, riots and peoples motives and also not just how to deal with them but how they were prevented from repeating.

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In conclusion to the riots, both MPs and the general public in England stated that there were only two ways to deal with the happenings of August 2011: help the communities cope better with certain social and emotional problems or severely punish the looters. However, a somewhat understanding of what happened and why helps avoid such simplistic resolving, which is why I believe their needs to be further studies undertaken with the matters in hand.  Jonathan Bean (2000) pointed out in his newspaper, that, the looters that took part in the riots in the United States in the 1960’s and 70’s were only a small minority of those living within the community and was not community members who dedicated time trying to improve issues with disrespectful and aggressive means. Surveys that have already taken place by several researchers have clearly shown that most community members did certainly not approve of the rioting and looting that had taken place. Thus, rioters and looters made it more difficult for those trying to improve their community and stress their problems in a peaceful and orderly mean, they were purely acting on self-interest.

It becomes evident that much further study and research needs to be done in understanding what leads to individuals developing such a distorted sense pf values and acting in such maladaptive ways. Psychologically, the answer to this question is extremely complex, and I believe that the solution isn’t just as easy as punishing the subgroups, this wouldn’t change behaviours and does nothing to help those in the disadvantaged communities and prevent similar happenings in the future. So, why was there no repeat of the 2011 riots, what happened to make these different to other riots? Have harsh sentences for 2011 offences had a deterrent effect? Have policing methods become more effective and less divisive? Are parents supervising their children more closely? Have schools been working to improve community relations? I am going to discuss the factors that contributed not to just the 2011 riots but also previous riots that have taken place, and the solution that was put into place to prevent a repeat of the happenings in August 2011.

Certain studies state that it was the death of Duggan that caused the riots and lootings, a police official stated that the incident, on their behalf was ‘extremely regrettable’ and went on further to say that  ‘It is absolutely tragic that someone has died, but that does not give a criminal minority the right to destroy businesses’. This can be seen as true, but ignores underlying factors that have existed for a longer period of time prior to the 2011 riots such as; poverty, unemployment, and racial tensions.

Karsten states that, ‘poverty and chronic unemployment can be causally related to a variety of serious psychological and social problems.’ Recent events such as government cuts has led to somewhat fewer job opportunities, especially for the younger generation of England. Also the closure of many community centres, libraries and youth clubs within inner city areas could be a factor that affects younger people and reduce their social events and the receiving of positive social support, also people to talk to about the diminished job opportunities. After the events of August 2011 the government set to change this issue by offering….

Another psychological factor that studies show to be a factor is that of maladaptive identity. It is clear that humans are a somewhat highly social species. …. States that this way of life in groups evolved in increase access to necessities such as shelter and food which, according to Maslow is one of the major things needed for success. Belonging to a group is the basics we need for survival. Brown states that, ‘A group exists when two or more people define themselves as members of it, and when its existence is recognised by at least one other’.  Furthermore, the largest part of one’s personal identity comes from being identified within group whether that be family, friends or the larger community. If you grow up and be part of a group that does not have access to as many other groups within you area, you will grow angry with the unfairness of society. Within some Inner city areas there are places of poverty and high unemployment rates, this can be seen as inequality within society, leaving a person feeling disempowered and not in place. So much so that they decide to loot and burn buildings in a protest of their anger.  

Another factor that contributes to the happenings in August is that of powerlessness and social unrest. Baistow discussed the evidence that powerless was the main factor in the 1960 and 70 riots within the United States. Studies show that the areas seen to be in poverty and that have very poor educational opportunities also have limitations within career opportunities, this in effect takes away peoples power and social status within their community, thus leading to a diminished sense of oneself. This is when becoming part of a group, changed to finding gangs. This gives the leader a sense of respect but also encourages empowerment on members within the gang through identification. Moreover, members of a gang are more likely to commit crime as they all have the same beliefs and also share the same anger. Kelly & Karau state that

‘Many of the world’s most important decisions are made in small groups.’ Whether that be good or bad. Stoner also stated that group decisions were also riskier than those made by individuals. Furthermore, this is a topic I would be interested in studying further, and believe more studies need to be done on this subject in order to stop or decrease gang related crime. This issue was raised by the government as a conclusion of the 2011 riots. They decided to state that public services would have an input to spot those struggling early, in order to help them before they became a member of a gang. They also stated that police and the public work together to support and maintain law and order. These changed I believe contributed to the fact there was no repeat of the 2011 riots in London.

The rapid use of social media was also a factor that contributed to the spread of the riots of 2011. People were using Twitter and Facebook to stream videos and communicate with each other. People were posting false information such as the killing of police officers which made matters worse and fuelled that violence within the communities. Social media was used to rapidly meet up with people or give stranger information on the next steps and what was happening. Social media has the potential to promote positive as well as negative consequences and deserves extensive research with respect to the social change process.

Another factor that played a huge part with the riots of 2011 was that of, family attitudes and behaviour. The public stated that it is extremely important how young people are brought up. ‘A good upbringing can help to prevent bad behaviour within society.’ It all comes down to the psychological sense of belonging ad back to being part of a group. If people don’t feel they are part of the family then they will look elsewhere to feel belonged.  After the riots, the government set up a ‘Troubled families programme’ which was an intensive scheme to address the needs of families so they could focus on helping families become part of their community. According to Bowlby Many forms of psychiatric disturbance can be attributed to deviations in the development of attachment Absent fathers were also contacted by social services and schools so they could be part of their children’s life. These were also factors that contributed to there being no repeat of the riots of August 2011.