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Investigating Key Risk Factors Across Violent and Non-violent Extremists in the United States

NCJ Number
Leevia Dillon
Date Published

This dissertation is the result of research on risk factors across and within violent and non-violent extremists in the U.S., with the hope that the results can aid counterterrorism efforts on assessment development, identifying effective risk factors across varying groups, and assessing violence risk.


The author of this dissertation presents the research results on risk factors across and within two groups: violent extremists, for example, jihadists and far-right extremists; and non-violent extremists, such as jihadists and far-right financial or material support of crime extremists. The author’s overarching goal is to address the two greatest security threats facing the U.S., and to aid counterterrorism efforts on assessment development, identifying effective risk factors across varying groups, and assessing violent risk.  The research questions and objectives were to compare risk factors across and within the two groups of violent and non-violent extremists, and to explore underlying associations between risk factors and theoretical domains. The research design used mixed-method study, with offender-level data from 1990 through 2018, from the U.S. Extremist Crime Database (ECDB) and randomly selected a sample of 420 offenders, including 210 violent extremists and 210 non-violent extremists. The first research question was examined using a series of binary logistic regression models to predict and compare for significant risk factors, and the second research question was investigated using tetrachoric correlation coefficients to run an exploratory factor analysis model to determine the associations between the dichotomous variables. The case study constructions across both groups selected three cases each, from the groups, and sampled for heterogeneity; they were developed to explore contextual nuances within the risk factors at the individual level. Findings suggested that risk factors do not generally differ across and within both violent and non-violent groups, with several exceptions. The exploratory factor analysis findings concluded that almost all the various motivations examined could be grouped into the individual-situational and individual-group domains instead of the individual domain.