The London riots, a psychiatrist's perspective

August 8, 2012
The London riots, a psychiatrist's perspective

In August 2011, riots that started in London spread across England with widespread rioting, arson and looting, along with injuries to the public and police and the death of five people. In a new paper published in Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, Professor Carmine Pariante and Dr. Guiliano Aeillo from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London examine the events from a psychosocial point of view.

The paper suggests that the rioters were experiencing a lack of mentalization: the lack of ability to identify one’s own states of mind, to give them a name, and to assign them significance. Feelings and emotions were perceived therefore only as physical sensations, leading an unbearable sense of physical restlessness, and thus to the expression as violence.

The paper also suggests that the behaviour was the result of a lack of social identity, leading to frustration and anger. Similarly to patients with personality disorders, who alienate the community that they long for, the ‘socially excluded’ destroyed shops and stole goods in order to belong. Instead, confirming they are not part of society, and increasing their social exclusion.

Psychotherapy for people with personality disorder requires therapists to show themselves as 'present, involved and invulnerable'. The authors suggest that a healthy community should show the same characteristics: 'present', meaning knowledgeable of the community members in difficulty; 'involved', meaning interested in helping the pursuit of the individual and social goals of the community; and 'invulnerable', meaning trustworthy, and morally coherent, in how we deliver on our promises of equal opportunities, personal development, social mobility, and respect of the law.

Professor Pariante says: “Showing concern is a start, but it is not enough. Society can, and must deliver practical steps to improve social inclusion. Recent research in the USA has shown that social and psychological interventions can improve social belonging in ethnic minorities. These interventions were focused on students, and maybe that is where we should start: in schools. Social belonging is a primary requirement to allow people to live a meaningful life in the community. It is also the major deterrent that a civilized and emancipated society can offer to prevent violence and from happening again.”

Explore further: New research finds extreme antisocial personality predicts gang membership

More information: For full paper: Guiliano Aiello and Carmine Pariante, ‘Citizen, Interrupted: the 2011 English Riots from a psychosocial perspective’, Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences (August 2012), doi: 10.1017/S2045796012000364

Related Stories

New research finds extreme antisocial personality predicts gang membership

November 9, 2011
Research into the 2011 London riots found they were mostly committed by antisocial persons, less than 20% of whom were explicitly gang members. This is because gang membership is primarily for the most antisocial of such ...

Research finds children with social phobia are judged less attractive

February 7, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- A recent study from the Centre for Emotional Health, Macquarie University, has found children with social phobia are judged as less attractive and are less liked by their peers, than children without anxiety ...

Recommended for you

When male voles drink alcohol, but their partner doesn't, their relationship suffers

November 17, 2017
A study of the effect of alcohol on long-term relationships finds that when a male prairie vole has access to alcohol, but his female partner doesn't, the relationship suffers - similar to what has been observed in human ...

Risk of distracted driving predicted by age, gender, personality and driving frequency

November 17, 2017
New research identifies age, gender, personality and how often people drive as potential risk factors for becoming distracted while driving. Young men, extroverted or neurotic people, and people who drive more often were ...

Spanking linked to increase in children's behavior problems

November 16, 2017
Children who have been spanked by their parents by age 5 show an increase in behavior problems at age 6 and age 8 relative to children who have never been spanked, according to new findings in Psychological Science, a journal ...

Generous people give in a heartbeat—new study

November 15, 2017
Altruistic people are said to be "kind hearted" - and new research published in the journal Scientific Reports shows that generous people really are more in touch with their own hearts.

Teenage depression linked to father's depression

November 15, 2017
Adolescents whose fathers have depressive symptoms are more likely to experience symptoms of depression themselves, finds a new study led by UCL researchers.

How emotions influence our internal clock

November 15, 2017
Human beings have an internal clock that enables the subconscious perception and estimation of time periods. A research team under Dr. Roland Thomaschke of the University of Freiburg's Department of Psychology has showed ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.