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There is growing recognition about the similarities between generic criminality and violent extremism. Using data derived from a unique set of in-depth life history interviews with 40 former U.S. white supremacists, as well as previous studies of criminal desistance, we examine the emotional valence that characterizes actors' descriptions of the disengagement process. More specifically, results suggest that negative emotions (i.e., anger and frustration) directed toward the extremist group and oneself function as a catalyst for disengagement. Negative emotions become a source of motivation in re-evaluating the relative importance of the group as it relates to the individual. Ultimately, the reevaluation of the group is essential to the decision to disengage from violent extremism.


This article was originally published in Journal of Qualitative Criminal Justice &Criminology, volume 7, issue 2, in 2019.

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