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The problem of overgeneralization: The case of mental health problems and US violent white supremacists

NCJ Number
American Behavioral Scientist Volume: Online Dated: 2019 Pages: 1-17
Date Published
17 pages

In contrast to a consensus among scholars that terrorists are relatively normal in terms of mental health, and thus, studying mental health is not a useful line of investigation, the current study found a large portion of a sample of former violent U.S. White supremacists report mental health problems before and/or during their involvement.



Individuals with mental health problems may be attracted to the White supremacist movement because of the ideological similarities to certain types of mental health symptoms such as paranoia, elevated levels of anger, and a sense of persecution. Additionally, results suggest that violent White supremacist groups do not actively filter prospective or current members for mental health problems. Findings provide evidence for the ongoing need to examine mental health factors among a variety of terrorist organizations and suggest that the emerging consensus may be an example of overgeneralization. (Publisher Abstract)

Date Published: January 1, 2019