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Risk Factors and Indicators Associated With Radicalization to Terrorism in the United States

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2018
34 pages
Based on the findings of research funded under the National Institute of Justice's Domestic Radicalization to Terrorism program, this report identifies and discusses potential risk factors associated with engaging or attempting to engage in terrorism among both group-based and lone-actor terrorists in the United States.
There is some overlap among risk factors in analyses of both group-based and lone-actor terrorists. These risk factors include having a criminal history, having mental health issues or having received a diagnosis of schizophrenia or delusional disorder, being unemployed, being single, being a loner or socially isolated, and having military experience. In addition, having personal and political grievances, having an enabler who assists in planning an attack or provides the inspiration for it, having at least a bachelor's degree, living alone, and being male were also identified as potential risk factors among lone actors. Research findings tentatively suggest that those who are closest to individuals at risk of terrorist activity could be in a position to observe some of the potential warning signs that they may be at risk for involvement in a terrorist attack. Lone actors who engaged or attempted to engage in terrorism tended to be vocal about their grievances or otherwise show interest in an ideology known for terrorist acts. Two potential indicators related to planning or preparing for conducting a terrorist attack include increasing attendance at extremist group meetings and stockpiling weapons. This review of the risk factors for engagement in terrorism cautions, however, that although research that examines samples of terrorists can assist in identifying characteristics, experiences, and behaviors that are generally linked to involvement in terrorism, further work is required to determine whether these risk-related characteristics, experiences, and behaviors are relevant in the case of a particular individual. 8 tables and 28 references

Date Published: June 1, 2018