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Comparing the Biographical Backgrounds and Radicalization Dynamics of Lone-Actor and Group-Based Terrorists

Why does one person radicalize to involvement in terrorist violence within a group-based context, while another engages in this form of violence alone? In this article, Bart Schuurman and Sarah Carthy draw on a newly-developed dataset to compare group-based and lone-actor terrorists across a range of predictors.

Bart Schuurman, Sarah Carthy
12 June 2023
Read the full article here

Statistically significant bivariate associations and regression analyses suggest that lone actors have fewer criminal antecedents and lower exposure to social settings that enable group-based participation in terrorism. Limited perceived social skills and high social isolation may inhibit their ability to join terrorist groups. Lone actors also have little experience with non-violent activism, and tend to radicalize at a later age.

Whether a radicalized individual engages in terrorism alone or as part of a group has implications for their likelihood to actually carry out their attack, and its lethality if they are able to do so. However, from the perspective of this current study, once a radicalized individual is planning, preparing, or executing a terrorist attack they can be considered to have already become either a group-based or lone-actor terrorist. Hence, the most relevant findings for this comparison are those detailing differences related to the biographical background and radicalization dynamics of lone-actor and group-based terrorists.

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