The article “Correlates of Violent Political Extremism in the United States,” by Gary LaFree, Michael Jensen, Patrick James and Aaron Safer-Lichtenstein was among 2018’s top 20 most read articles in Criminology, the field’s top journal. First published in February 2018, the article uses the Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States (PIRUS) dataset to test whether variables derived from prominent criminological theories are helpful in distinguishing between nonviolent and violent extremists.
Their results show that variables related to social control (lack of stable employment), social learning (radical peers), psychological perspectives (history of mental illness), and criminal record all have significant effects on participation in violent political extremism and are robust across multiple techniques for imputing missing data. At the same time, other common indicators of social control (e.g., education and marital status) and social learning perspectives (e.g., radical family members) were not significant in the multivariate models.
The authors argue that terrorism research would benefit from including criminology insights and by considering political radicalization as a dynamic, evolving process, much as life‐course criminology treats more common forms of crime.