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Micro and Macro-Level Risk Factors for Extremism and Terrorism: Toward a Criminology of Extremist Violence


Over the past twenty years, research on political extremism and terrorism has become one of the fastest growing sub-fields within criminology. This rapid growth is reminiscent of the early years of criminology itself, characterized by energy, imagination and creativity but at the same time a specialization struggling to collect and analyze valid data, apply appropriate research methods and develop coherent theoretical frameworks. In this paper, we take stock of these developments by considering a basket of micro- and macro-level risk factors that have been frequently linked to the decision to engage in violent extremism. Following a review of risk factors, we consider major definitional, theoretical, data and methodological challenges and also progress made. Prior criminological research on violent extremism has focused especially on micro-level characteristics and few studies to date have integrated micro and macro determinants to explain extremist outcomes. However, with the growing availability of data, including open-source databases, paired with the application of more sophisticated statistical methods, we expect to see more robust results in the years ahead.

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LaFree, Gary, and Anina Schwarzenbach. 2021. "Micro and macro-level risk factors for extremism and terrorism: Toward a criminology of extremist violence." Monatsschrift für Kriminologie und Strafrechtsreform (August). https://doi.org/10.1515/mks-2021-0127

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