The phenomenon of suicide bombing: A review of psychological and non psychological factors

Meytal Grimland, Alan Apter, Ad Kerkhof

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


This article reviews the literature on the phenomenon of suicide bombing. It addresses the question of just how much a psychological understanding of the individuals involved can aid in prevention. The article looks at historical, epidemiological, and cultural perspectives and compares the nonpsychological and psychological approaches to suicide bombing. On the basis of the material available it seems that social processes such as group-dynamic indoctrination and political factors are decisive in analyzing this problem. Cultural, nationalistic, and religious factors are important. The conclusion is that in suicidal bombing, suicide is instrumental in the context of war, not in the context of psychopathology. Suicide bombing is instrumental in realizing fatalities, and it is only one of many weapons. The act of killing in warfare is more important to understanding suicidal terrorism than the act of suicide. This explains why psychological profiling of suicidal terrorists has to date not been successful.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-118
Number of pages12
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Bombing
  • Indoctrination
  • Psychological and nonpsychological approaches
  • Suicide
  • Terror


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