U of M study: Youth engagement is essential to combat terrorism

Jan 28, 2017

A study from the University of Michigan suggests engaging at-risk youth is a key tactic for understanding and preventing terrorism. 

The study was led by U-M Research scientist Scott Atran and co-authored by professor of public policy Robert Axelrod.

According to the study, young adults often join extremist groups like ISIS because they are socially connected to others who have done the same. They say this is a response to being unable to organize in creative, nonviolent ways.

U.S. terrorism research often focuses on individual perpetrators rather than social networks.

"The focus has to be on the group dynamic between the young people in those places rather than on individuals, and certainly not on counter-narratives that are disembodied from social networks or social life in general," Atran said.

Two percent of the Department of Defense's budget goes to social science research. The authors of the study say this lack of funding is an obstacle for combating terrorism effectively.