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Operationalizing theory: A moral-situational action model for extremist violence

NCJ Number
Journal of Threat Assessment and Management Volume: 5 Issue: 4 Dated: 2018 Pages: 205-226
Warren, Janet I.; Leviton, April Celeste R.; Reed, James; Saathoff, Gregory B.; Patterson, Terri D.; Richards, Lauren A.; Fancher, Andrea D.
Date Published

We present a Moral-Situational Action model for extremist violence which seeks to integrate theoretical tenets of Situational Action Theory with practiced principles of risk and threat assessment, with the goal of providing a causative model which will guide operational analyses and empirical research concerning an individual’s progressive involvement in or desistence from extremist violence.


Violence risk and threat assessments have coexisted for decades as mutually exclusive endeavors of academia and law enforcement. In the years following September 11th, 2001, extremist violence has demanded that law enforcement and intelligence agencies identify, prevent, and respond to potential attacks perpetrated by radicalized civilians. This challenge has highlighted the gaps in the current risk and threat assessment methodologies. We seek to inform and improve these two processes by integrating theory into this process of violence risk and threat assessment, while focusing specifically on the radicalization of women to extremist violence. The proposed model explores risk and protective factors as intertwined constructs on the same continuum. The model further integrates the quantitative coding of risk factors with a formulation-based outcome that includes behavior, motivation, and vulnerabilities, to assess fluctuating levels of risk, and individual-specific risk and threat management strategies. We describe the coding protocol that is being used to quantitatively examine this theory and posit that with modest revision it will be applicable to men. (Publisher Abstract Provided)