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Research on Domestic Radicalization to Violent Extremism: Insights from Family and Friends of Current and Former Extremists

NCJ Number
Date Published
19 pages

With the goal of providing insights that can guide policymakers and community organizations in developing policies and practices to counter violence-promoting domestic extremism, this study examined radicalization and its prevention at four levels: 1) individual, 2) relational, 3) institutional, and 4) societal.



The research first reviewed current studies that have focused on radicalized U.S. citizens living in the United States. Most of the studies examined used primary data collection through interviews, surveys, or other targeted data with radicalized or de-radicalized individuals, their family members, or peers. The current research also reviewed information in the database on Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States (PIRUS). Using the findings and data from these sources, the current research team designed a semi-structured interview protocol for former extremists and their family members and friends. The structure of these interviews was based on the psychological autopsy approach, which involves systematic interviews with family and friends used to learn about a person unavailable for direct interview. To recruit respondents, the team partnered with Parents for Peace and Beyond Barriers, two organizations that work with former members of radical extremist organizations and family members who have assisted with de-radicalization. The team succeeded in conducting interviews with 24 former extremists, 10 family members, and 2 friends. The interviews resulted in findings in four key areas: background characteristics of radical extremists, pathways to radicalization, de-radicalizing, and leaving extremist organizations, and perspectives on mitigation strategies. Among the factors discussed as linked to radicalization are financial instability, mental health needs, social factors ( victimization, stigmatization, or marginalization). Online propaganda and the creation with social bonds with radicals were also factors in becoming radicalized. Factors in de-radicalizing and leaving extremist organizations are discussed, and recommendations are offered. Four research products are listed.

Date Published: January 1, 2021