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Research Provides Guidance on Building Effective Counterterrorism Programs

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2018
2 pages
This brief summarizes the findings of a study that explored the wide-ranging psychological and emotional factors associated with the radicalization to terrorism in the United States.

Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States analyzed information on 1,473 radicalized individuals, both violent and non-violent. A variety of factors were examined, including each individual's educational level, immigrant status, duration of radicalization, and any history of abuse or mental illness. The data analysis focused on the similarities and differences of the social networks of radicalized individuals; characteristics in common or distinctive to individuals who do or do not engage in violence; whether it is possible to identify pathways to terrorism; and whether previous theories of radicalization are supported by empirical evidence. Among the findings are that most radicalized individuals come from a middle-class background and have some college education; stable employment may decrease the risk that radicalized individuals will engage in violence; radicalization is a social process despite an increase in lone-actor terrorist acts; and radicalization is a long process, often lasting years. The study advises that successful counter-terrorism programs should address the underlying psychological and emotional vulnerabilities that make individuals open to radicalization. These vulnerabilities to radicalization may result from traumatic experience or from a sense of personal or community marginalization.

Date Published: July 1, 2018