Trauma and openness to legal and illegal activism among Somali refugees

B. Heidi Ellis, Saida M. Abdi, John Horgan, Alisa B. Miller, Glenn N. Saxe, Emily Blood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


This article examines key setting events and personal factors that are associated with support for either non-violent activism or violent activism among Somali refugee young adults in the United States. Specifically, this article examines the associations of trauma, stress, symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), posttraumatic growth (PTG), strength of social bonds, and attitudes towards legal and non-violent vs. illegal and violent activism. Structured interviews were conducted with a sample of Somali refugee males ages 18–25 living in the northeastern United States (N = 79). Data were analyzed using multiple linear regressions and path analysis. Greater exposure to personal trauma was associated with greater openness to illegal and violent activism. PTSD symptoms mediated this association. Strong social bonds to both community and society moderated this association, with trauma being more strongly associated with openness to illegal and violent activism among those who reported weaker social bonds. Greater exposure to trauma, PTG, and stronger social bonds were all associated with greater openness to legal non-violent activism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)857-883
Number of pages27
JournalTerrorism and Political Violence
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 20 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Activism
  • PTSD
  • Somali refugees
  • Trauma
  • Violent extremism


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