Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Criminology and Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Dr. Samantha Clinkinbeard


To date, most terrorism research concerned with the long-term development of extremist behavior focuses on patterns of terrorist attacks, long-term responses to extremist violence or organizational longevity of extremist groups. The current study addresses this void in the existing literature by relying on life-history interviews with 91 North American-based former white supremacists to examine the developmental conditions associated with extremist onset. My attention is primarily focused on individual-level experiences; particularly how childhood risk factors (e.g., abuse, mental illness) and racist family socialization strategies generate emotional and cognitive susceptibilities toward extremist recruitment. This type of investigation contributes to terrorism research by emphasizing some of the early childhood and adolescent experiences that may heighten a person’s vulnerabilities to certain pulls associated with ideology and group dynamics more broadly. Overall, findings from the current dissertation build upon developmental-life course criminology and studies within terrorism that address the role of childhood and adolescent risk factors. In particular, I elaborate on the work of Simi and colleagues (2016) and offer additional context as to the precursors that influence extremist onset.


A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy Major: Criminology and Criminal Justice Under the Supervision of Dr. Samantha Clinkinbeard

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