A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Trauma as a Precursor to Violent Extremism


Though violent extremism has recently begun to receive increased scrutiny, less attention has been paid to understanding how non-ideological factors influence the process of joining an extremist group and the onset of committing violent crimes. Violent extremism involves a variety of pathways and manifests itself along a broad continuum. Although there is no single pathway to violent extremism, this study empirically identifies a pathway where non-ideological risk factors accumulate over time beginning during childhood and serve to push the person toward a variety of violent behaviors including violent extremism.

Using life histories of violent white supremacists, START researchers based at the University of Nebraska at Omaha examined how non-ideological factors, including trauma, conduct problems and mental health issues, influence becoming involved in a violent extremist group. This study focuses on the individual’s experiences leading up to entry into violent extremism rather than the person’s experiences with violence during involvement in the group.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Simi, Pete, and Bryan Bubolz, Hillary McNeel, Karyn Sporer, Steven Windisch. 2015. "Trauma as a Precursor to Violent Extremism: How non-ideological factors can influence joining an extremist group." START, College Park, MD. April. https://www.start.umd.edu/pubs/START_CSTAB_TraumaAsPrecursortoViolentExtremism_April2015.pdf

START Author(s):