The Making of a Homegrown Terrorist
Brainwashing Rebels in Search of a Cause
by Peter A. Olsson, MD
February 2014, 198pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3101-0
$55, £43, 48€, A76
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3102-7
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Are all young people vulnerable to recruitment as homegrown terrorists?

What are the factors that lead some individuals to become terrorists? In this book, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst examines case histories of terrorism and reveals how radicalized youths living next door can become dangerous homegrown terrorists.

Religious zeal and passionate dogma can be powerful motivators for homegrown recruits of terrorist organizations. In this book, Peter A. Olsson, MD, applies his years of work with disordered personalities to the psychological understanding of why seemingly ordinary Americans turn into murderers of their countrymen. He identifies the psychodynamic patterns of the lives of those who become “homegrown terrorists” and commit acts of cold-blooded murder, examining 20 detailed case histories of individuals—often youths or young adults—to provide theoretical and practical understandings.

The book focuses on individuals that include Timothy McVeigh; Ted Kaczynski, a.k.a. “The Unabomber”; the “Shoe-Bomber” Richard Reid; Colleen LaRose, a.k.a. “Jihad Jane”; Nidal Malik Hasan, an American-born, former U.S. Army officer who opened fire on American troops at Fort Hood, Killeen, TX, killing 13 and injuring more than 30; and Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tzarnaev, the two brothers charged with placing pressure cooker bombs at the finish line area of the 2013 Boston Marathon. It also delves into topics such as distinguishing between “good charisma” in a youth versus “evil charisma” and recognizing the characteristics of a healthy group or leader versus those with unhealthy motivations—subject matter that will be of interest and importance to anyone from concerned citizens and parents to teachers and terrorism specialists.


  • Presents a detailed study of 20 homegrown terrorists' life situations and psychodynamics that will not only answer questions for general readers, such as "What were the two brothers behind the Boston Marathon bombings really like?" but also supply psychiatrists, psychologists, law enforcement officers, and homeland security experts with invaluable insights for interviewing possible homegrown terrorists
  • Pinpoints reasons for radicalization among young people at a vulnerable, "in-between" period in their lives, such as conflicts with parents, disagreement with their parents' views about religion, or the perception that they are hypocritical
  • Covers acts of domestic terrorism in the 20th century ranging from the activities of the Weather Underground group in the 1970s to Timothy McVeigh's truck bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 to the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013
Peter A. Olsson, MD, is a retired psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who practiced and taught psychiatry, psychotherapy, and psychoanalysis in Houston, Texas, for 25 years and in New Hampshire for 12 years. He served as clinical professor of psychiatry at Baylor Medical School in Houston and was assistant professor at Dartmouth Medical School. His published works include Praeger's The Cult of Osama: Psychoanalyzing Bin Laden and His Magnetism for Muslim Youths and Malignant Pied Pipers of Our Time: A Psychological Study of Destructive Cult Leaders from Rev. Jim Jones to Osama bin Laden. His website is at


2015 New Non-Fiction Winner—Beverly Hills Book Awards, January 1, 2015


"Olsson, a retired psychiatrist and psychoanalyst with 37 years of experience, deciphers the complexities of these mass murder-minded killers. He structures his enlightening book with a broad enough scope, written in clear terms, to be mind-opening."—The Keene Sentinel, June 22, 2014

"It is a highly insightful analysis."—Perspectives on Terrorism, November 23, 2016

"This very scholarly, easy to read, and outstanding book should be required reading in colleges and certainly is a basic and significant text for psychoanalysts seeking to understand terrorism. I highly recommend it.” —Psychodynamic Psychiatry, April 7, 2016
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