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Narratives of Childhood Adversity and Adolescent Misconduct as Precursors to Violent Extremism: A Life-Course Criminological Approach


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Objective We examined how nonideological factors such as childhood risk factors and adolescent conduct problems precede participation in violent extremism (VE). Methods We conducted in-depth life-history interviews with former members of violent White supremacist groups ( N = 44) to examine their childhood and adolescent experiences, and how they explain the factors that led to the onset of VE. Results Based on self-reports, we found substantial presence of childhood risk factors and adolescent conduct problems as precursors to participation in violent extremist groups. Conclusions Our findings suggest that pathways to VE are more complex than previously identified in the literature and that violent extremists are a heterogeneous population of offenders whose life histories resemble members of conventional street gangs and generic criminal offenders. We conclude our article with implications related to criminological theory, directions for future research, and limitations.
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Narratives of
Childhood Adversity
and Adolescent
Misconduct as
Precursors to Violent
Extremism: A Life-Course
Criminological Approach
Pete Simi
, Karyn Sporer
, and Bryan F. Bubolz
Objective: We examined how nonideological factors such as childhood risk
factors and adolescent conduct problems precede participation in violent
extremism (VE). Methods: We conducted in-depth life-history interviews
with former members of violent White supremacist groups (N¼44) to
examine their childhood and adolescent experiences, and how they explain
the factors that led to the onset of VE. Results: Based on self-reports, we
found substantial presence of childhood risk factors and adolescent conduct
problems as precursors to participation in violent extremist groups.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that pathways to VE are more complex
School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, NE,
Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL,
Corresponding Author:
Pete Simi, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Nebraska at Omaha,
Omaha, NE 68182, USA.
Journal of Research in Crime and
ªThe Author(s) 2016
Reprints and permission:
DOI: 10.1177/0022427815627312
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than previously identified in the literature and that violent extremists are a
heterogeneous population of offenders whose life histories resemble mem-
bers of conventional street gangs and generic criminal offenders. We con-
clude our article with implications related to criminological theory,
directions for future research, and limitations.
life-course theory, developmental theories, criminological theory, terrorism,
violence, antisocial behavior, qualitative research, research methods
Routine or ‘‘normal’’ crime (Sudnow 1965) and violent extremism (VE) are
typically studied as distinct phenomena (Mullins 2009). VE is defined as
violence committed by an individual and/or group in support of a specific
political or religious ideology, and this term is often used interchangeably
with terrorism (Borum 2011). As such, criminologists have rarely consid-
ered VE within the broader realm of criminal offenders due to the presence
of ideological motivations, while terrorism scholars routinely ignore the
potential for utilizing a criminological perspective to study this type of
violence (Mullins 2009; Rice 2009). While Clarke and Newman (2006)
argue that terrorism is similar to more ordinary crime, other prominent
scholars, such as Hirschi and Gottfredson (2001:94), suggest criminological
theory is poorly suited to explain this type of violence because terrorism
‘reflect[s] commitment to a political cause’’ (see also Silke 2008). In con-
trast, other scholars have recently explored the applicability of using crim-
inological theories to help explain VE vis-a`-vis subcultural theory (Pisoiu
2015), rational choice (Perry and Hasisi 2015), displacement and diffusion
(Hsu and Apel 2015), social disorganization (Fahey and LaFree 2015),
routine activities (Parkin and Freilich 2015), and deterrence (Argomaniz
and Vidai-Diez 2015). Despite advances, however, the use of criminology
to study VE remains substantially underdeveloped.
Although several observers have suggested the utility of using life-course
criminology (LCC) to study VE (Freilich et al. 2014; Hamm 2013), virtually
no studies have relied on a LCC framework to understand VE (for an excep-
tion, see Hamm 2013). LCC encompasses a broad range of theoretical ele-
ments across the entire criminological discipline. The influence and analytic
power of LCC is so substantial that some observers have contended, ‘‘Life-
course criminology is now criminology’’ (Cullen 2011:310). Relying on in-
depth life-history interviews with former members of VE groups (N¼44),
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we use LCC to examine how nonideological factors such as childhood risk
factors and adolescent conduct problems are part of a cumulative and age-
graded set of environmental adversities that precede the onset of VE. Social–
psychological processes that implicate emotion and cognition mediate the
effects of risk factors on future engagement in antisocial behavior (Giordano,
Schroeder, and Cernkovich 2007). As the person experiences cascading
effects (Granovetter 1978) where negative experiences spiral together over
time, the individual becomes increasingly susceptible to the pull of various
types of criminally-oriented groups including VE. Our findings contribute to
a growing effort that examines the empirical overlap between what has
previously been characterized as a unique or distinct offender population
and more generic criminality. Doing so, in turn, expands the scope of crim-
inological theory and underscores the relevance of using a criminological
framework to study VE.
Violent Extremism (VE), Crime, and Pathways to
In general, the predominant view within the study of VE can be described as
a collective dynamics model (Post 2005; Silke 2008), which focuses largely
on the influence of organizational characteristics and the role of ideology.
While several past studies of VE point to the importance of nonideological
motivations (Bjørgo 1997; Crenshaw 2000; De Cataldo Neuberger and
Valentini 1996; Horgan 2014; McCauley and Moskalenko 2011; Sageman
2004; Stern 2003), few studies of VE have carefully documented nonideo-
logical concerns in a systematic, empirical fashion beyond single case
studies, inventory-style lists, or broad generalizations.
Most studies that have examined nonideological motivations rely on data
obtained from international samples (Bjørgo 1997; De Cataldo, Neuberger,
and Valentini 1996; Della Porta 2006; Sageman 2004; Stern 2003). These
studies have also not applied a criminological framework such as LCC to
understand how adverse environmental conditions may contribute to partic-
ipation in VE. Moreover, recent studies of VE rarely include in-depth life-
history data obtained through interviews and, therefore, are limited in how
much can be learned about childhood experiences including the presence of
various risk factors. Finally, much of the research that acknowledges non-
ideological factors related to VE focuses on group-level processes that pull or
attract individuals toward extremism as opposed to push or risk factors.
Without the presence of adverse environmental conditions, however, pull
factors present within extremist groups would likely be much less influential.
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To study questions related to VE, we use U.S. White supremacist groups,
which are part of a broader resurgence of far-right extremism mobilizing
across the globe (Simi and Futrell 2010). The organizational characteristics
of White supremacists vary substantially and include terror groups, street
and prison gangs, religious cults, and hybrid organizations that represent
some combination of these different organizational types (Freilich, Cher-
mak, and Caspi 2009; Noble 1998; Simi, Smith, and Reeser 2008). White
supremacists have a long history in the United States that includes substan-
tial involvement in criminal offending such as mass murder, physical
assaults, home invasions, property crimes, identity theft, counterfeiting,
drug distribution, fraud, acts of terrorism, and various forms of hate crime
(Flynn and Gerhardt 1995; Freilich and Chermak 2009; Freilich et al. 2009;
Hamm 2002; Ligon et al. 2013; Simi 2010; Simi, Bubolz, and Hardman
2013; Smith 1994; S. A. Wright 2007). Similar to street gangs, not all White
supremacists are violent and, in some cases, individuals form nonviolent
political organizations. In general, however, White supremacists express
strong support for violence as a tactical strategy (Dobratz and Waldner 2012).
Previous studies have found that White supremacist groups attract indi-
viduals for reasons such as ideological alignment, the perception that it
provides a substitute family, and the search for status, excitement, and
identity (Baron 1997; Bjørgo 1997; Blazak 2001; Blee 2002; Schafer, Mul-
lins, and Box 2014; Simi and Futrell 2010). Individuals also join White
supremacist organizations because of personal grievances with members of
different races, ethnicities, religions, or sexual orientations related to con-
flicts that may have begun during childhood and adolescence (Aho 1994).
For many individuals, the process of joining White supremacist movements
is gradual, as they slowly separate from mainstream society, restructure
their identity, and adopt a conspiratorial worldview (Blee 2002; Simi and
Futrell 2009).
Risk Factors and the Onset of Conduct Problems
Social scientists have studied a broad range of risk factors, as they relate to
the onset of delinquency and antisocial behavior (Dahlberg 1998; Farring-
ton 2000, 1998; Hawkins et al. 1998; Loeber et al. 1998; Moffitt 1990; Staff
et al. 2015). In short, risk factors involve the presence of different types of
adverse conditions that increase the likelihood of delinquent and criminal
behavior (Coie et al. 1993; van der Geest, Blokland, and Bijleveld 2009).
The risk factor paradigm was originally inspired by public health
approaches to addressing problems like heart disease and lung cancer
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(Farrington 2000). Since that time, the risk factor approach has become a
major perspective within criminology, as a substantial volume of crimin-
ological research finds risk factors significantly increases the odds of short-
and long-term offending (Hautala, Sittner, and Whitbeck 2015).
Risk factors, however, do not operate in isolation but rather exist within a
broader constellation of mediated processes (Maschi, Bradley, and Morgan
2008). A number of studies support a ‘‘cumulative risk hypothesis,’’
wherein the number of risk factors rather than any particular combination
has been associated with childhood misconduct both concurrently and long-
itudinally (Deater-Deckard et al. 1998; Rutter et al. 1975). The potential
effects of risk factors include adverse psychological and physical conse-
quences and, in some cases, may result in trauma. In turn, symptoms of
trauma typically include various negative emotion states such as anger,
hostility, lowered self-esteem, anxiety, and depression (Neller et al. 2005).
The study of street gangs is an area of research that has previously
emphasized the importance of risk factors in terms of increasing individual
susceptibility to gang membership (Hawkins, Catalano, and Miller 1992;
Hill et al. 1999; Klein and Maxson 2006; McGarrell et al. 2009; Thornberry
et al. 2003). Research on the life histories of gang members has consistently
discovered family conditions characterized by alcohol and drug abuse,
domestic violence, sexual molestation and incest, neglect, and instability
(Fleisher 2000; Miller 2001; Moore 1991). Some individuals cope with
adverse family conditions such as child maltreatment by relying on the
gang as a source of social support (Miller 2001; Moore 1991; Thompson
and Braaten-Antrim 1998). As we discuss below, our results closely approx-
imate findings from the street gang literature, suggesting substantial overlap
between a segment of violent extremists and members of conventional,
nonideological street gangs.
In this article, we contribute to the broader study of VE by examining the
presence of childhood risk factors and adolescent conduct problems in a
sample of former White supremacists. Our focus on the presence of risk
factors within the context of life transitions is consistent with a broader life-
course theoretical perspective (Farrington 2003; Giordano, Cernkovich, and
Rudolph 2002; Hagan and Foster 2003; Sampson and Laub 1993). At the
same time, we also expand the scope of LCC by focusing on VE, which
involves an offender type previously considered to possess fundamentally
different characteristics than generic criminals. To explore the similarities
between generic criminal offenders and VE, we focus on subjects’ in-depth
descriptions of childhood risk factors and adolescent conduct problems, and
how subjects’ narratives suggest these experiences influenced the onset of
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VE. As Giordano and colleagues (2015:9) point out, ‘‘narratives do not
mirror precisely the real reason ...’ but rather address ‘‘how [offenders]
talk about and understand [their own] behavior ...’ In areas of less devel-
oped research, life-history interviews provide an effective method for iden-
tifying different pathways that may be otherwise ‘‘obscured by a focus on
aggregate trends ...’ (Giordano et al. 2015:9) which characterizes much of
the extant literature on risk factors related to delinquency and crime.
Data for this study were drawn from life-history interviews with 44 former
members of violent White supremacist groups. Subjects lived in 15 differ-
ent states across all regions of the country. The first author’s long-term
ethnographic fieldwork with far-right extremists provided the basis for
initial contacts with former White supremacists. The study also relied on
contacting former extremists with a public presence who have either written
books about their lives or shared their experiences in some type of public
forum. Each of the initial subjects was asked to provide referrals to other
former extremists who might be willing to participate in the study. This
snowball sampling process produced contacts that would not otherwise be
accessible using traditional means of contact such as the Internet or mailing
lists (R. Wright et al. 1992). Multiple individuals were used to generate
unique snowballs and, thus, only a small segment of the subjects were
acquainted with each other. Substantial rapport was established and main-
tained through regular contact with subjects via telephone and e-mail.
Participants ranged in age from 19 to 61, and included 38 male and 6
female subjects. Four described themselves as lower class, 20 as working
class, 15 as middle class, and 5 as upper class. Overall, the length of
participation among the subjects ranged from 3 to 21 years. Only a small
portion of the subjects embraced White supremacist ideology prior to group
involvement. While only three subjects were raised in a household with
immediate relatives who were involved in extremist groups, a majority of
the subjects (n¼28) were socialized during childhood with ideas relatively
consistent with White supremacist ideology such as racism and/or anti-
A large portion of the sample has extensive histories of criminal conduct
including property offenses such as shoplifting, vandalism, and other forms
of property destruction. Individuals were also engaged in a variety of
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violent offenses such as murder, attempted murder, street fights, violent
initiation rituals, and bomb making. Of the 44 subjects, 40 reported a history
of violent offending, 41 reported a history of delinquent activity, 29
reported a history of arrests, and 13 spent time in prison.
Procedures and Data Analysis
Interviews were conducted in public settings such as restaurants and coffee
shops although a subsample was conducted in private settings such as the
subjects’ home. Life-history interviews produce a narrative that allows the
researcher to understand the complexities and intersectionality of identity,
ideology, and life experiences (McAdams 2006). Members of the sample
provided a rich and detailed history of their lives anchored around themes
such as family socialization, romantic relationships, job attainment and
stability, reasons for joining and leaving extremism, and involvement in
criminal and violent behavior. The life-history interviews averaged between
four and five hours and generated 3,757 pages of transcripts, which provides
an indication of the level of detail contained in these data.
Interviewing former extremists as opposed to those who are currently
involved provided several advantages especially in terms of examining
highly sensitive issues such as involvement in violence and mental health
Subjects described their earliest memories in a sequential manner
moving forward to the present. During the interview, subjects were asked
direct questions at various points to focus on specific topic areas, and probes
were routinely utilized to encourage subjects to elaborate aspects of their
life histories. In order to prevent priming or leading subjects during the
initial open-ended portion of the interview, we avoided asking questions
specifically related to risk factors but instead asked subjects to describe
different aspects of their lives (e.g., relationship with family during child-
hood, etc.). As such, the interviews were not designed to focus specifically
on risk factors but instead to capture a broad view of the subject’s life
history. Each interview concluded with a more structured set of questions
that specifically focused on the presence of various types of risk factors,
demographic information, and a variety of other more structured questions.
We analyzed the data using a modified grounded theory approach (Char-
maz 2006; Glaser and Strauss 1967; Miles and Huberman 1994), which
allows researchers to combine a more open-ended, inductive approach
while also relying on existing literatures and frameworks to guide the
research and help interpret the findings. The initial data coding involved
various steps but began by reading entire interview transcripts line-by-line
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to determine differences and similarities within and across our subjects.
Coding techniques helped to identify and extract relevant empirical and
conceptual properties present in our data. The constant interaction with data
involved a virtual ongoing analysis and identification of social processes
during each instance of data collection. Codes were used to organize the
data into similar concepts. Deductive codes such as identifying different
types of risk factors (e.g., child abuse) were drawn from existing literature
while inductive codes emerged from the initial phase of line-by-line anal-
ysis (Charmaz 2006). After initial codes were developed, we compared and
contrasted data themes, noting relations between them, and moved back and
forth between first-level data and general categories (Glaser and Strauss
1967; Miles and Huberman 1994).
Sequential Model of Violent Extremism (VE)
In the following sections, we present segments from the life-history narra-
tives to illustrate how childhood risk factors catalyze a sequential process of
cumulative disadvantage that influences the onset of VE. The risk factor
model includes three primary dimensions: (1) different types of childhood
adversity experienced, (2) subsequent onset of adolescent conduct prob-
lems, and (3) nonideological motivations and circumstances leading to
extremist participation (see Figure 1). We organize the excerpts from var-
ious life histories according to the different stages of the model. The narra-
tive data are not meant as a formal test but rather to illustrate empirical and
conceptual categories. The pathway to extremism that we present is similar
to a stage model (Ebaugh 1988); however, the stages do not necessarily
unfold in a linear fashion nor are the stages completely distinct from each
other (Altier, Thoroughgood, and Horgan 2014). Our model does not
Early Childhood
Risk Factors
(e.g., family
Adolescent Conduct
(e.g., aggressive
behavior, truancy)
Extremist Participation
as Coping Mechanism
(e.g., social support, outlet
for aggression,
Negative Emotions
(e.g., anger,
Figure 1. Risk factor model of extremist participation.
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describe all individuals who become involved in extremism, nor do we
specify all of the dynamics related to the process of entry. Thus, our model
is necessarily incomplete; however, we do address several important dimen-
sions not explored in previous research.
Early Experiences with Environmental Adversity
Of the 44 subjects, 37 (84 percent) reported experiencing one or more of the
following adverse environmental conditions: childhood physical abuse (43
percent), childhood/adolescent sexual abuse (23 percent), emotional and
physical neglect (41 percent), parental incarceration (27 percent), parental
abandonment (36 percent), and witnessed serious violence (domestic and/or
neighborhood; 64 percent). We highlighted the above conditions, as previ-
ous studies have noted the importance of each of these adversities in par-
ticular (Carlson 2000; Dahlberg 1998; Farrington 1998; Fleisher 2000). In
addition, 19 of the 37 subjects (51 percent) experienced three or more of
these adverse environmental conditions. As previously noted, a broad range
of studies document the importance of examining risk factors in terms of
cumulative influence (Farrington 1998; van der Laan et al. 2010). More
broadly, we also found two other risk factor items worth noting: 26 of the 44
subjects (59 percent) reported being raised in households characterized by
substance abuse, and 32 of the 44 subjects (73 percent) reported being raised
in households characterized by some type of family disruption (i.e., divorce,
deceased parents, or parents who were never married). We also examined a
series of mental health-related factors. Almost two-thirds (57 percent) of the
interview subjects reported attempting suicide and/or seriously considering
suicide while 41 percent of our sample reported experiencing mental health
problems either preceding or during their extremist involvement. Finally,
nearly half of the subjects reported a family history of mental health problems
(48 percent). Each of these risk factors represents different types of stressors
that can potentially disrupt the normal development of a young person’s life
(Parke and Clarke-Stewart 2003; see Table 1).
The figures above exceed rates of child maltreatment found within the
general population. A recent survey found 28.3 percent of American adults
retrospectively reported being physically abused as a child, 20.7 percent
reported being sexually abused as a child, and 12.4 percent reported being
neglected as a child (Middlebrooks and Audage 2008; see also Finkelhor
et al. 2013 for similar but lower estimates). The elevated rates of childhood
adversity reported in our sample are comparable with previous studies of
youth supervised in juvenile justice settings (see Hoeve et al. 2014) and
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studies of gang-involved youth (Joe and Chesney-Lind 1995; Miller 2001;
Moore 1991).
We use these two types of population comparisons for the following
reasons. First, rates derived from the general population provide an indica-
tion of whether domestic VE are otherwise ‘‘well-adjusted individuals’’ as
some scholars have suggested (see Post 2005; Silke 1998). Second, samples
of incarcerated youth and gang-involved individuals provide points of com-
parison to high-risk populations that have been extensively studied. Based
on both types of comparisons, the findings suggest that our sample includes
individuals with elevated rates of childhood risk factors as compared to the
general population and similar rates of childhood risk factors when com-
pared to high-risk samples.
In the examples below, subjects discuss specific childhood experiences
with different types of risk factors. We draw specific attention to the emo-
tional and cognitive impact that our subjects discuss in their life histories.
The first case, Kathy, involves a former member of the Aryan Nations who
is now 47 years old. Kathy became active in extremist groups in late ado-
lescence and spent more than 20 years involved. During the interview,
Kathy responded to a question about her early family life, which included
a description of one particular incident of severe marital conflict that
occurred between her parents when she was 13.
I remember my mom coming home late from work. We were like, ‘Where
have you been?’ She’s like, ‘I’ve been in the hospital.’ She said that she met
Table 1. Early Experiences with Environmental Adversity.
Frequency Percentage
Childhood physical abuse 19 43
Childhood/adolescent sexual abuse 10 23
Emotional and physical neglect 18 41
Parental incarceration 12 27
Parental abandonment 16 36
Witnessed serious violence 28 64
Household substance abuse 26 59
Household with family disruption 32 73
Suicidal ideation 25 57
Mental health problems before/during extremist
18 41
Family history of mental health problems 21 48
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my dad at the bar with some other lady. She got in a fight with the lady and
said that my dad held her down or something. He betrayed my mom pretty
bad. What happened was that they drove off. The girl backed over my mom
with the car and hit my mom with the car. My mom flipped and hit her head.
She got in her car, tried to chase them but then passed out while she was
driving the car. She got a head injury. I was plotting to find that lady and go
beat her up. From Friday to Monday when my dad didn’t come home the
whole week, my mom was suicidal. I had to sleep in her bed with her to watch
her. I was mad at her for doing that. (Kathy, June 17, 2014)
Kathy explained this incident was indicative of a larger pattern of family
conflict that characterized her childhood upbringing. Kathy’s chaotic fam-
ily life included a suicidal parent and, as she explained, the role reversal
(Kenny and Donaldson 1991) she experienced after becoming a custodial
supervisor for her mother resulted in feelings of anger, resentment, and
uncertainty. Kathy’s unstable home life preceded adolescent experimenta-
tion with drugs and alcohol, truancy, and teenage pregnancy. In turn, each
of these adolescent misconduct problems preceded her eventual involve-
ment in VE. Adverse childhood events such as the one described above are
formative and are an important part of a larger chain of events that may
predispose a person toward delinquent and criminal trajectories (Leverentz
2006). Clearly, experiencing an unstable family environment does not guar-
antee involvement in VE or any other criminality, but that also does not
mean that these early experiences are unimportant nor should they be
ignored (Cullen 2011).
The second example of childhood adversity involves Will, a former
member of the National Alliance, now in his mid-40s, who described a
particularly severe instance of child abuse as well as a cycle of spousal
abuse that he witnessed during childhood.
There was one point when I was, like, 5 years old and my mom hooked me up
like a dog in the bathtub and made me eat dog food and then proceeded to beat
me like a dog with a whip ... Yeah, that happened regularly, but only when
my dad wasn’t home. As soon as my dad come home, he’d hear it from the
neighbors, what had happened, then he’d beat her. Then, it start all over again
... Once I figured that I could run away I was gone at least I tried but I got
caught in some barbed wire. If it hadn’t been for the barbed wire, I’d have
been gone. We were living on a farm and I couldn’t squeeze through the
barbed wire, I got caught. Otherwise, I would have been gone. (Will, July 22,
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Will’s experience with this type of abuse coupled with physical and emo-
tional neglect left him feeling vulnerable and powerless; two common
consequences of childhood maltreatment (Finkelhor and Browne 1985).
His narrative depicted an unsuccessful effort to leave his abusive home
environment, which he also explained reinforced feeling trapped. As his
narrative unfolded, Will explained that by the age of 12, he found a sense of
escape by hanging out at a local music venue that featured punk rock shows.
At the music venue, Will reported he met older members of a violent punk
street gang who befriended Will and groomed him for membership. Even-
tually, Will transitioned from the punk street gang to a violent White supre-
macist group and during his adulthood was incarcerated for a hate crime
Next, Clint, who is now in his mid-40s, discussed the sexual abuse he
experienced as a child. He reported the experience was the catalyst for his
initial feelings of intense anger, which ultimately motivated the develop-
ment of a violent self-image.
I had a pretty traumatic childhood for other reasons. When I was 10 the
people behind us had an 18-year-old son. He was our babysitter for a while.
I won’t go into any details of that. That was kind of the root of my anger and
hate. At that point, I was damaged, pissed off, hated the world. (Clint, June
10, 2013)
During the interview, Clint consistently expressed the idea that the initial
seeds of his anger and hatred stemmed from his sexual abuse. He also
explained that over time as his anger and hatred grew, he became increas-
ingly violent. In addition to the trauma of sexual abuse, Clint discussed the
domestic violence he witnessed between his parents prior to their divorce,
which he viewed as a contributing factor to his own involvement in
They split up when I was nine. I have vivid memories of a couple of times,
them fist-fighting in the hallway. There was a lot of physical stuff ... I
started fighting pretty young. That was a direct result of my dad’s aggression,
and the [sexual] abuse. (Clint, June 10, 2013)
Clint’s understanding of how he became a violent extremist relied largely
on how he understood his experiences with sexual victimization and wit-
nessing domestic violence. His narrative framed these experiences in terms
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of their emotional and cognitive consequences, which, he says, shaped his
own violent disposition.
Conduct Problems during Adolescence
The second dimension of the precursors to VE involved conduct problems
during adolescence. The data indicated a range of adjustment problems and
high-risk behaviors among the subjects in our sample prior to their involve-
ment in VE. In terms of substance use, 73 percent of the subjects reported
having problems with alcohol and/or illegal drugs. More specifically, 64
percent of the subjects reported experimenting with illegal drugs and/or
alcohol prior to age 16. Early experimentation with alcohol and illegal
drugs is typically an indication of a more general high-risk lifestyle and
predicts a variety of unhealthy outcomes (Calvert, Bucholz, and Steger-
May 2010). In terms of educational experiences, 59 percent of subjects
reported truancy, while 55 percent of the subjects reported academic failure
(i.e., expulsion from school or dropping out; see Table 2). Problems with
truancy and academic performance are one of the strongest predictors of
delinquent and criminal behavior (Huizinga and Jakob-Chien 1998; Savo-
lainen et al. 2012). Only three subjects reported not having conduct prob-
lems during adolescence. Like the elevated rates of child maltreatment, the
above figures reflect levels of adjustment problems and high-risk behavior
that far exceed typical rates of these behaviors found in the general
In the first case, Brent, a 45-year-old former member of the American
Front, described an incident of ‘‘calculated retaliation’’ (Jacobs 2004) and
‘ultra-violence’’ (Athens 1992) that occurred during his teenage years.
I had this chick there that I liked and I was in love with. My buddy Chad had
said something so she walked off with some other dude. There were some
Table 2. Conduct Problems during Adolescence.
Frequency Percentage
Problems with alcohol and/or illegal drugs 32 73
Experimenting with alcohol and/or illegal drugs before
age 16
28 64
Truancy 26 59
Academic failure 24 55
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other punk rockers out there. She went off with some skinny dude that
I didn’t even know. I was depressed ... Some big old 25-year-old dude.
I’m like a 16-year-old kid. He fucking whipped my ass pretty good. He had,
he was all, everything I hated. So we jump in the car. I’m sitting there, me and
my buddy Chad. I’m thinking. I see this dude sitting there and so I just backed
the vehicle and hit him. I pulled forward and backed up on him again. I got
him good ... (Brent, July 27, 2014)
Brent also explained that during adolescence, he began committing
home invasions to steal money and drugs. In short, Brent’s adolescence
involved an extensive record of juvenile offending that included multi-
ple arrests and incarceration at youth detention centers and residential
treatment facilities. Brent’s adolescent conduct problems followed a
series of childhood traumas such as sexual abuse and finding his
father’s dead body at the age of five.
In the next case, Brenda described an early onset using alcohol and
illegal drugs and then eventually dropping out of high school. Her conduct
problems preceded involvement in extremism and became increasingly
more severe over time.
I started drinking at 12 ... It is hard to even remember. It’s kind of a big
blur. When I did go to school I was always severely hung over. At such a
young age where all the drug use really blurred a lot of my memories. I did
them so heavy and so much, I drank so much at that age ... From high
school I dropped out. That is when I was I think I was 15. (Brenda, July 5,
Eventually, this escalation process of substance use led to an entanglement
in an abusive romantic relationship with a much older male leader of a local
VE group. Brenda’s involvement in VE culminated in witnessing a brutal
murder committed by members of her VE group. Prior to involvement in
VE, Brenda’s biological father abandoned her during early childhood and
her mother and stepfather were emotionally and physically neglectful.
These examples highlight the importance of a sequential process where
childhood risk factors and adolescent conduct problems precede extremist
involvement. Rather than an average person being influenced by the group
dynamics that characterize VE, our data suggest substantial risk factors and
conduct problems were present prior to becoming involved in VE. This
finding does not diminish the importance of group dynamics or ideology
nor does it mean that all individuals who become extremists possess these
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same types of risk factors. In the next section, we present data regarding
extremist groups as a general support system that attract individuals with
specific nonideological needs (e.g., shelter) and who are already involved in
various types of criminality including violent offending.
Nonideological Functions of Extremist Participation
Based on the analysis of our sample, we suggest the importance of ideology
primarily follows rather than precedes entry (see also Blee 2002). Because
entryispartofageneralsociallearning process, individuals typically
experience a learning curve (Giordano et al. 2015; Mead 1938; Sutherland
1939) that involves becoming increasingly familiar with different aspects of
a specific extremist ideology. For example, Clint reported that ideology did
not prompt his initial entry into extremism:
It was a lot more about just being bad. Then I kind of developed, after being
around it a lot, probably more after getting involved with the World Church of
the Creator and starting to read that propaganda; then I started to become
more attuned to it politically. (Clint, June 10, 2013)
Clint’s description emphasized the point that while ideology is important,
its primary relevance emerged following entry as opposed to preceding it.
Other participants identified involvement in extremist groups to be the
result of serendipitous events (see Copes, Hochstetler, and Cherbonneau
2012; Jacobs 2010), a desire to establish a tough reputation (Katz 1988), and
to acquire shelter (Hagan and McCarthy 1997). Jeremy, a 42-year-old for-
mer member of Volksfront, discussed how his involvement in various types
of antisocial behavior eventually bled serendipitously through informal
network links into involvement in an extremist group.
Steve got this big house and we lived there, and that is kind of where I first
started running with like these guys who sold weed and they were like meth
heads and shit like that ... [I was] about 13 or 14. Then these guys [a racist
skinhead group] okay, these guys were really violent. I mean they were
known for doing crazy and fucking people up ... Well this whole meth thing
it was all like all over southeast Seattle and you know as far as the skinhead
shit we were thugs and so we just started running with them too because all of
us were pretty much in the same circle ... (Jeremy October 16, 2012)
Jeremy’s description highlights several important issues. First, the early age
of exposure to older and more criminally experienced individuals provided
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an important source of influence in terms of social learning (Harding 2009;
Warr 2002). The exposure to these older peers resembles mentoring rela-
tionships (Dishion, McCord, and Poulin 1999) where older individuals
show younger individuals the ropes. Jeremy also characterized the extre-
mist group he belonged to as a group of violent ‘‘thugs’’ with substance use
problems who used the collective as an outlet for anger and frustration,
which is also consistent with our focus on the importance of nonideological
factors in terms of becoming a violent extremist.
Other nonideological functions of extremist participation include estab-
lishing a reputation. For example, Greg told us:
It wasn’t really the ideology at least not at first ... A lot of it for me was just
making a name for myself, that’s all I ever really wanted was just to make a
name for myself. At some point in that area of time was when I just realized
was what I wanted to do was basically end up getting into it with somebody.
Hopefully I’d end up dying, something like that. I just didn’t care and I was
just depressed. It was like if I die, I don’t give a shit. That’s why I got into so
much trouble. (Greg, November 14, 2013)
Last, James described how he found refuge from homelessness in an extre-
mist group.
Yeah after my parents died I didn’t have anywhere to go and this kid who was
already a skinhead let me live in his garage for the summer. When that
happened I started meeting the guys who were in his crew and that’s how I
got started in the group. (James, January 9, 2015)
The circumstances surrounding James’ decision to join the extremist group
underscores that a perceived lack of viable alternatives may strongly influ-
ence the decision-making process. James chose to live in his friend’s garage
in order to address an instrumental need to find shelter.
Summary Case Description
We conclude this section with a description of a single case in order to
illustrate each aspect of the sequential model. David, a former White supre-
macist now 28, discussed his earliest memories from childhood (approxi-
mately four or five years of age) involving different aspects of domestic
violence and child abuse.
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I can recall him [step-father] being like a buddy, even after he raped my mom,
beat her. He came out and he put his hand on my head and rubbed my hair,
kind of patted my head, like I remember the feeling, or something like that,
and just being like, stuck. And feeling like don’t touch me ... Oh yeah,
there’s lots of memory after memory after memory about physical violence
and stuff. Some of the things being kicked in the face, kicked in the ribs, held
up against the wall by the throat, thrown down stairs, bounced off walls, on
and on, right? (David, April 15, 2012)
David’s recollection illustrates the paralyzing capacity of witnessing
violence and its potential to traumatize victims and observers (Carlson
2000). David discussed how he felt ‘‘stuck’’ after his stepfather sexu-
ally assaulted his mother. Children who witness and experience violent
subjugation (Athens 1992) are likely to experience feelings of help-
lessness, anger, and frustration and begin to view the world as a cruel
place where only the strongest survive. In addition to witnessing vio-
lence and experiencing abuse, over time David’s mother’s mental
health deteriorated, which culminated in the incident described below
when he was 11:
[Later] she [his mother] had tried to kill my brothers and my sister and
my cousin and all the pets in a sacrifice by lighting the house on fire as
she danced around the fire outside naked to the point where her legs were
black with frostbite. So when the house is burning down, kids are almost
going to die, my uncle comes and phones the police ... (David, April 15,
David’s intensive and long-term experience with various risk factors, how-
ever, did not automatically result in his entry into VE. Instead, David’s
chaotic home life eventually led to his placement in a treatment facility
after he attempted suicide at the age of 14. Following his time in the mental
health facility, David became homeless and began to live on the streets.
During his time living on the streets, David was involved in regular street
fighting, but his violence was not motivated by any particular ideology.
While he was homeless, a leader from a VE group befriended David by
offering shelter and support including encouragement and reinforcement of
his violent behavior.
Then me and Roger [leader of an extremist group] started hanging out on the
street. He was drinking a lot, we had lots of heartfelt conversations. He
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actually taught me how to roll people [rob people] effectively and this sort of
thing ... I was on the streets, this was how I got off the streets ... I had a
role; I got invited into a small cell of guys who worked under a larger
organization that had like a hundred and some members. It was this tiered
system. (David, April 16, 2012)
As David began spending more time with members of this group, he even-
tually became a member himself. In time, David embraced White supre-
macist ideology and his violent offending expanded to include victims
selected based on racial and ethnic characteristics and sexual orientation.
David’s description also highlights the role of criminal mentors as well as
the role of social bonds that extend beyond ideological factors. Although
David eventually became highly committed to White supremacist ideology,
the process developed over time after group entry.
Discussion and Conclusion
We had several goals in this article. First, while the importance of studying
VE has recently received greater attention among criminologists (Agnew
2010; LaFree and Dugan 2004), less attention has been devoted to under-
standing the similarities between violent extremists and generic criminal
offenders. Our focus on childhood adversities, adolescent conduct prob-
lems, and nonideological motivations for joining violent extremist groups
highlights the continuities between VE and generic offending. This study
also highlights the utility of an LCC approach to studying VE. Investigating
VE helps expand the scope of LCC and provides a new theoretical frame-
work for understanding the development of VE.
Second, we emphasized that former VE’s narratives highlight the impor-
tance of childhood risk factors as a series of destabilizing and adverse
conditions that dovetailed with adolescent misconduct. The criminological
relevance of risk factors is less about any particular single event producing
some type of breakdown, but rather an understanding of these adversities as
conditioning experiences that incrementally increase a person’s susceptibil-
ity to negative outcomes including violent offending. In addition, few crim-
inological studies have examined the qualitative dimensions of childhood
risk factors and adolescent conduct problems as part of an age-graded
process. Our focus on childhood helps expand LLC and simultaneously
mitigates against the tendency toward adolescent-limited approaches within
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Third, following Widom’s (2014) argument regarding violent offenders
more broadly, we also acknowledge the heterogeneous nature of VE, which
involves a number of diverse pathways. Various orientations exist within
any extremist subculture, including bandits (i.e., common criminals) and
revolutionaries (i.e., terrorists). In many ways, the distinction between com-
mon criminality and VE is illusory. Generic interpersonal criminality often
involves an aspect of terror at least for the victim and VE, by definition,
involves unlawful behavior. In addition, an extremist may simultaneously
engage in both common criminality and terrorism at any one time. Finally,
an extremist may evolve from one to the other over time (i.e., a person starts
as a nonideological criminal and becomes ideological and vice versa). The
violent extremists in our sample overlap considerably in terms of individual
background factors such as child maltreatment and high levels of other risk
factors with members of conventional street gangs and ordinary violent
offenders. In this respect, our findings depart from previous claims that
there is little overlap between violent extremists and nonideological crim-
inal offenders (Hirschi and Gottfredson 2001; Silke 2008).
Limitations and Future Research
Several limitations of this study are important to mention. First, the retro-
spective nature of the life-history interviews raises questions about validity
and reliability due to memory erosion, distortion, and selective recall (Bad-
deley 1979). The practice of remembering is a reconstructive process where
memories of events are typically reinterpreted during each recall. Despite
these concerns, the rich life history accounts provide important insight from
the subjects’ perspective. Due to the relatively hidden nature of this popu-
lation, the sample was derived through snowball techniques and, as a result,
is not representative which prevents generalizing from these findings. The
goal of a grounded theory approach, however, is to develop a conceptual
explanation that closely fits the data (or incidents), which the concepts are
intended to represent. While grounded theory is not intended to provide
generalizations, the hypotheses developed can be tested at a later point by
the researcher or other researchers in future studies. Lastly, our data do not
allow us to address possibilities of biosocial interactions that may play a
major role in the sequential model we identified (J. P. Wright and Beaver
2005). We see biosocial interactions as an important aspect of VE that
future research should explore.
Future research should explore how these findings compare with extre-
mists from different ideological orientations and across different
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geographic areas. More specifically, future research should compare the
findings from this North American-based sample of former White supre-
macists with similar samples from various European countries and with
other types of extremists such as former violent jihadis and left-wing extre-
mists. Relatedly, future research can compare violent extremists with non-
violent extremists to determine if entry pathways and background
exposure to risk factors vary between these two types of extremists.
Finally, future research should focus on whether gender and socioeco-
nomic status influence pathways toward VE.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was funded by the
National Institute of Justice: ‘‘Empirical Assessment of Domestic Disengagement
and Deradicalization (EAD3)’’ (NIJ -2014-3751), the Harry Frank Guggenheim
Foundation (HFG), and the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and
Responses to Terrorism (START) project, ‘‘Recruitment and Radicalization among
US Far-Right Terrorists.’’ This research was supported by the Department of Home-
land Science and Technology Directorate’s Office of University Programs through
Award Number 2012-ST-061-CS0001, Center for the Study of Terrorism and Beha-
vior (CSTAB) 2.1 made to START to investigate the understanding and countering
of terrorism within the U.S. The views and conclusions contained in this document
are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the
official policies, either expressed or implied, of the U.S. Department of Homeland
Security, START, HFG, or NIJ.
1. In terms of mental health, subjects were asked whether a medical practitioner had
ever diagnosed the person with a mental disorder. In addition to self-reports
regarding physician diagnoses, we coded self-reports of suicide attempts and
other relatively clear instances of maladjusted behavior (e.g., self-mutilation)
as evidence of mental health problems. Alcohol and substance abuse can also
be viewed as a type of mental health problem and, in fact, is listed in the
Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5;
American Psychiatric Association 2013). Substance use problems, however,
were coded separately from all other mental health problems and findings regard-
ing substance use problems are reported as distinct frequencies. We did this to
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prevent inflating the mental health findings, given the ubiquitous nature of sub-
stance abuse among White supremacists. The findings are likely conservative, as
we only counted the presence of mental health problems when subjects
responded ‘‘yes’’ to questions involving being told by a physician that he or she
had some type of mental health problem or if the person reported a relatively
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Author Biographies
Pete Simi is an associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at the
University of Nebraska Omaha. He specializes in violence, social movements, street
gangs, and qualitative methods.
Karyn Sporer is a doctoral candidate in the School of Criminology and Criminal
Justice at the University of Nebraska Omaha. Her main research interests are in the
areas of violent extremism and terrorism, family violence and victimization, and
mental illness and violence.
Bryan F. Bubolz is an assistant professor in the Department of Criminology and
Criminal Justice at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. His research interests
include street gangs, violent extremism, domestic terrorism, and desistance.
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... Experiencing unjust events (directed against oneself or one's community) can intensify justice sensitivity [120]. Interviews with young people who engage in radicalization often contain distressing events, such as emotional deficiencies, trauma, and abandonment [1,121,122]. Interestingly, the severity of past adversity, including adverse life events and childhood trauma [123], can lead to an increase in prosocial and altruistic behavior mediated by empathy [124]. ...
... Significantly, forensic reports of youth involved in serious terrorist acts also find characteristic unemotional traits with real sympathy deficits in which ideology is used as violence. Some authors even underlined the observation that the radicalized individuals who committed radicalized murders were all engaged in severe delinquent behaviors when they were adolescents [121], especially in France [194], thus raising the possibility that these individuals should be considered as a particular subgroup needing to be specifically studied to shed some more clinical light on their psychopathological profile. However, a comparison between minors convicted in France for 'criminal association to commit terrorism' and teenagers convicted for nonterrorist delinquency shows that adolescents engaged in radicalization and terrorism do not have a significant prevalence of psychiatric disorders, suicidal tendencies or lack of SE. ...
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Background: The sympathy-empathy (SE) system is commonly considered a key faculty implied in prosocial behaviors, and SE deficits (also called callous-unemotional traits, CUTs) are associated with nonprosocial and even violent behaviors. Thus, the first intuitive considerations considered a lack of SE among young people who undergo radicalization. Yet, their identification with a cause, their underlying feelings of injustice and grievance, and the other ways in which they may help communities, suggest that they may actually have a lot of empathy, even an excess of it. As a consequence, the links between SE and radicalization remain to be specified. This critical review aims to discuss whether and how SE is associated with developmental trajectories that lead young people to radicalization. Method: We first recall the most recent findings about SE development, based on an interdisciplinary perspective informed by social neuroscience. Then, we review sociological and psychological studies that address radicalization. We will critically examine the intersections between SE and radicalization, including neuroscientific bases and anthropologic modulation of SE by social factors involved in radicalization. Results: This critical review indicates that the SE model should clearly distinguish between sympathy and empathy within the SE system. Using this model, we identified three possible trajectories in young radicalized individuals. In individuals with SE deficit, the legitimization of violence is enough to engage in radicalization. Concerning individuals with normal SE, we hypothesize two trajectories. First, based on SE inhibition/desensitization, individuals can temporarily join youths who lack empathy. Second, based on an SE dissociation, combining emotional sympathy increases for the in-group and cognitive empathy decreases toward the out-group. Conclusions: While confirming that a lack of empathy can favor radicalization, the counterintuitive hypothesis of a favorable SE development trajectory also needs to be considered to better specify the cognitive and affective aspects of this complex phenomenon.
... Instead, terrorism interview studies use non-probability sampling strategies, and while a few use stronger strategies, such as grounded-theory or life histories (e.g., Simi, Sporer, & Bubolz, 2016; see also Azca et al., 2019;Chernov Hwang, 2017) this is rare. In fact, many of these studies do not provide details about the non-probability sampling strategies they pursued (Harris et al., 2016) and few try to weigh the costs versus the benefits of, for instance, choosing between snowball versus quota non-probability sampling strategies. ...
This paper identifies what we see as opportunities to improve data collection, analysis, and interpretation of findings in American and British terrorism research. We suggest seven directions that we see as promising. These include: 1) interview methods and reporting, 2) source reporting in database studies, prioritizing available court records, 3) more comparison groups, including non-offender activists for the same cause and non-political offenders, 4) comparison of cases with and without confidential informants, 5) extremist ideas and extremist violence studied as separate problems, 6) more attention to grievances, avoiding controversies over defining ideology and narrative, and 7) more attention to emotions of terrorists, their supporters, and their victims.
... As such, testing any criminological theory's value for explaining terrorism is replete with difficulties. (Corner and Gill 2020;, and the motivations behind terrorism (Simi, Sporer, and Bubolz 2016;Klein, Gruenewald, and Smith 2017). These studies demonstrate the value that criminology brings to terrorism studies, however important theoretical and empirical gaps persist within this literature. ...
... arson; both of which are consistent with themes from SCP and restrictive deterrence literatures. It is important to note that the excerpts from the communiqués are not meant to provide a formal test but rather to illustrate conceptual categories that emerged from our analysis (Simi et al. 2016). The prevalence for each theme is presented in Table A3 of the Online Appendix. ...
Objective: In this study, we investigate extremists’ appraisals of and sensitivity to perceived sanction risk during the commission of arson. We pay specific attention to the decision-making processes of extremists leading up to and during the offending opportunity. Methods: We examined data collected from self-reported communiqués (n = 275) describing acts of arson committed by radical environmental extremists. Results: We found that extremists, like other criminals, are sensitive to situational factors that affect the certainty of apprehension. Additionally, extremists work to reduce the risk of detection by engaging in crime-specific risk management techniques prior to and during the offending opportunity. Conclusions: Analysis of the communiqués is consistent with recent works on extremism, situational crime prevention, and restrictive deterrence. We discuss our findings in the context of rational choice and situational crime prevention theory and the advancement of preventative policies aimed at ideological and political crime.
... Despite these challenges, several important criminological studies have provided insight into the nature of terrorism. Leveraging the datasets and analytic techniques previously discussed, criminologists have investigated factors that influence the incidence of terrorism (Dugan, LaFree, and Piquero 2005;Miller 2012), the lethality of terrorism (Carson and Suppenback 2018), the geographic distribution of terrorism (Hasisi et al. 2020b;LaFree et al. 2012), the impact of counterterrorism efforts (Carson 2019;LaFree, Dugan, and Korte 2009), trajectories of terrorism (Behlendorf et al. 2012;LaFree et al. 2010), precursor terrorism actions (Corner and Gill 2020;, and the motivations behind terrorism (Simi, Sporer, and Bubolz 2016;Klein, Gruenewald, and Smith 2017). These studies demonstrate the value that criminology brings to terrorism studies, however important theoretical and empirical gaps persist within this literature. ...
Objectives. While terrorism studies were once castigated as atheoretical and unempirical, criminology has been well suited to apply theories of crime to terrorism and to then test those theories with rigorous methods and robust data. The present study takes stock of how criminologists have theorized about terrorism and tested those theories over time in 13 of the discipline's leading journals. Methods. The study systematically examines theoretical framing, hypotheses, methodological approach, focus within criminology and criminal justice, and policy recommendations in terrorism-focused articles. Results. While terrorism has become more central within top journals, sparse attention has been paid to many criminological theories that could help us understand terrorism. Additional qualitative, theoretical, and mixed-methods research is needed. Further, few articles address the making of terrorism laws. We identify other systematic strengths and weaknesses across the literature and highlight domains for future research. Conclusions. Criminological research on terrorism has engaged theories within and beyond the discipline and employed a range of methodologies with diverse data sources to make contributions to both our broader field and to the larger body of scholarship on terrorism. Yet, many opportunities exist for criminologists to expand research on the making, breaking, and reaction to break laws regarding terrorism.
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Dotychczasowe badania nad radykalizacją wskazują, że proces ten jest rezultatem kumulacji czynników, które generują podatność danej osoby na narracje ekstremistyczne. Autorzy artykułu przeanalizowali biografie sprawców ataków terrorystycznych i z uwagi na często pojawiające się w nich informacje na temat nadużywania przez zamachowców rożnych używek podjęli próbę podsumowania dostępnej wiedzy o zależnościach między uzależnieniem od substancji psychoaktywnych a radykalizacją. Mimo że nie stwierdzono istnienia prostego związku przyczynowo-skutkowego między uzależnieniami a radykalizacją, to skutki uzależnień częściowo pokrywają się z zidentyfikowanymi podatnościami na narracje ekstremistyczne. W kompleksowym podejściu do prewencji terrorystycznej powinno się zatem uwzględniać to, że uzależnienia mogą przyczyniać się do zwiększania podatności niektórych osób na radykalizację prowadzącą do terroryzmu. Substance abuse and the radicalisation process Previous research on radicalisation suggests that this process is the result of an accumulation of factors that generate a person’s susceptibility to extremist narratives. The authors of this article analysed the biographies of the perpetrators of terrorist attacks and, given the frequent references in these biographies to the abuse of various stimulants by the attackers, attempted to summarise the available knowledge on the relationship between psychoactive substance addiction and radicalisation. Although no simple causal relationship between addictions and radicalisation was found, the effects of addictions partly overlap with identified vulnerabilities to extremist narratives. A comprehensive approach to terrorism prevention should therefore take into account that addictions may contribute to increasing the vulnerability of some individuals to radicalisation leading to terrorism.
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Previous research on radicalisation suggests that this process is the result of an accumulation of factors that generate a person’s susceptibility to extremist narratives. The authors of this article analysed the biographies of the perpetrators of terrorist attacks and, given the frequent references in these biographies to the abuse of various stimulants by the attackers, attempted to summarise the available knowledge on the relationship between psychoactive substance addiction and radicalisation. Although no simple causal relationship between addictions and radicalisation was found, the effects of addictions partly overlap with identified vulnerabilities to extremist narratives. A comprehensive approach to terrorism prevention should therefore take into account that addictions may contribute to increasing the vulnerability of some individuals to radicalisation leading to terrorism.
Full-text available
Close relationships between the Sri Lankan Tamil community and the Tami communities in South India have resulted in the involvement of South Indian political parties in the Tamil problem in Sri Lanka. This involvement has continued even after the defeat to Tamil terrorists by the Sri Lankan military and is primarily concerned with influencing Indian foreign policy on the separatism issue in Sri Lanka. The main objectives of this study were to identify the factors which are motivating South Indian political parties to influence Indian foreign policy on separatism in Sri Lanka and to identify the strategies used by South Indian political parties to influence Indian Central Government foreign policy on separatism in Sri Lanka. Research method to achieve these two objectives was a qualitative method. This research method consisted of collecting non-numeric data from individuals with significant knowledge of South Indian political parties and analysing the collected data using quantitative content analysis. Findings from the study revealed that there are several factors motivating South Indian political parties to influence foreign policy on separatism in Sri Lanka. These factors are namely genuine concern for the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils, political self-interest, financial factors, social and humanitarian factors. Findings from the study also revealed that the main strategies adopted by South Indian political parties to influence Indian foreign policy on separatism are to threaten to withhold support to the ruling party in the Lok Shaba and prevent/disrupt the implementation of national projects in South Indian states.
This study uses a fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA) to examine the radicalization pathways of Islamic extremists in the United States from 1980 to 2018. This study draws on the Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States (PIRUS) database to examine the role of individual-, experiential-, contextual-, and familial-level conditions – or push and pull factors- on the radicalization process. More specifically, this study looks at radicalization to violent behaviour. Using fsQCA, this study found that the radicalization pathway for Islamic extremists is extremely difficult to reduce to a simple conditional pattern, and that the combination of conditions for the presence of radical violent behaviour is very similar for the absence of radical violent behaviour. More specifically, being married and holding a deep commitment to radical beliefs were individually and collectively sufficient conditions for explaining the presence and absence of radical violence, as was group membership. Having radical friends, being unemployed, and having a college degree each has less consistency, but predictable relationships with these outcomes, based on their conjoinment with other conditions. Implications and areas for future inquiry are discussed within.
This chapter provides an account on child separatist terrorism. Also called nationalist terrorists, separatist terrorists resort to political violence to coerce the dominant government into giving them sovereignty. The two main examples of such organizations in this chapter, notorious for using children, are the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The second half of this chapter discusses White child supremacism, with particular attention paid to online recruitment, Stormfront, and the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Most of the recruitment of White children occurs through SNSs and web pages designed for kids.KeywordsIrish Republican ArmyKu Klux KlanLiberation Tigers of Tamil EelamPolitical violenceSeparatist terrorismSocial mediaSri LankaStormfrontTamil TigersWhite supremacism
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This study extends Clarke and Newman's (2006; Newman and Clarke. 2008) work that applied SCP to terrorism. Their analysis focused on international terrorists, particularly suicide attacks, and only briefly discussed domestic American extremists. The American far-right, however, also poses a significant threat to public safety. This paper applies SCP techniques to two case studies of fatal far-right attacks against law enforcement personnel in the United States. The incidents were purposefully selected from Freilich and Chermak's U.S. Extremist Crime Database (ECDB), a relational database of all crimes committed by far-right extremists in the United States from 1990 to the present reported in an open source. Cornish's "script" analysis is applied to the two cases to devise intervention techniques to prevent such acts. One case illustrates the efficacy of traditional “hard” SCP techniques. Importantly, because some of these attacks were unplanned and occurred during routine incidents that escalated, recent innovations in SCP by Wortley and others are applied to a second case to demonstrate the usefulness of “soft” techniques.
Criminologists often allude to 'peer influence' in explanations of crime and delinquency, but the meaning of that concept rarely receives careful attention. Companions in Crime organizes the extensive literature on peer influence and group delinquency into a coherent form for the first time. Chapters focus on the role of peers over the life course, the group nature of delinquent behavior, and the applicability of peer influence for explaining the major features of delinquent behavior. The most extensive chapter of the book examines possible mechanisms of peer influence and the evidence in favor of each. The principal thesis of Companions in Crime is that deviant behavior is predominantly social behavior, and criminologists must eventually determine the significance of that fact.
Mean Streets is a field study of young people who have left home and school and are living on the streets of Toronto and Vancouver. This book includes the personal narratives and explanatory accounts, in their own words, of some of the more than four hundred young people who participated in the summer-long study, which featured intensive personal interviews. The study examines why youth take to the streets, their struggles to survive on the street, their victimization and involvement in crime, their associations with other street youth, especially within 'street families', their contacts with the police, and their efforts to leave the street and rejoin conventional society. Major theories of youth crime are analyzed and reappraised in the context of a new social capital theory of crime.
In this collection of chapters, leading scholars of adolescent risk behavior present the most recent ideas and findings about the variety of behaviors that can compromise adolescent development, including drug use, risky driving, early sexual activity, depression, and school disengagement. In particular, the volume emphasizes new perspectives on development and on person-centered analysis.