Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Sociology and Anthropology

Committee Chair

Lisa Dilks

Committee Co-Chair

Jason Manning

Committee Member

Joshua Woods


Why do some people commit acts of violence which are politically or ideologically motivated? Furthermore, why does the United States see such great variation in the number of terrorist incidents from year to year? To help answer these questions, Robert Agnew's (2010) General Strain Theory of Terrorism lays out a foundational model to explain what might cause terrorism. In contrast to previous strain theories, General Strain Theory of Terrorism argues that the strains most likely to result in terrorism are collective strains which are (a) high in magnitude, with civilians affected; (b) perceived as unjust; and (c) inflicted by more powerful 'others'. Collective strains affect groups or entire societies, rather than specific individuals. Collective strains increase negative emotions and attitudes, radicalize groups and individuals, contribute to a collective orientation and response, and facilitate the social learning of terrorism, while also reducing social control and access to legal coping means.;To test this theory, I argue that economic strains constitute collective strains. From this point I tested a portion of GST, focusing my analysis within the US, and examining the conduit from economic strain to increasing negative emotions to domestic terrorism using a path analysis of macro-level data collected from public sources. The analysis showed moderate support for theoretical assumptions. Some macroeconomic indicators such as unemployment can lead to domestic terrorism, while others such as poverty do not. As unemployment in the US rises, so do negative emotions and attitudes, and through this, incidents of domestic terrorism. Of course, economic factors are only one possible source of strain, and negative emotions are only one mediator in Agnew's model. From this we can conclude that General Strain Theory of Terrorism may be a worthwhile avenue for future research.