Female terrorists continue to defy preconceived perceptions. New profiles show female terrorists to be highly educated and quite similar to male terrorists.

New profiles of female terrorists highlight their intelligence and similarity to male terrorists. In a new study, female terrorists are educated, employed and reside in the country they commit terrorist acts.

Previously, female terrorists were believed to be easily influenced foreigners who became terrorists because they were isolated, uneducated and unemployed. These factors made women easy targets for recruitment by other terrorists. The new study proves that this is far from the truth.

The study profiled 222 female terrorists and was led by Karen Jacques, PhD, from Lancaster University in the United Kingdom. Researchers compared female terrorists to male terrorists while considering age of recruitment, education, employment, immigration, marital status, religion, criminal activity and family terrorism ties. The male and female terrorists were a part of nationalist-separatist conflicts as well as revolutionary movements. Some of the terrorists were a part of al Qaeda or the Popular Liberation Army of Colombia.

Most of the male and female terrorists were between the ages of 16 and 35, had a job and resided in the country where they committed terrorist acts. Most had at least graduated college and were not religious converts. The majority of terrorists had no previous criminal activity.

On average, female terrorists were actually better educated than male terrorists but were also more likely to be unemployed compared to their male counterparts. Female terrorists tend to be widows or divorced, note researchers. More importantly, the researchers highlight potential motivations for female terrorists.

Unlike male terrorists, female terrorists tend to have more personal motivations for committing terrorist acts. That’s not to say they do not believe in the larger terrorist movement or organization, some female terrorists may believe just that, but chances are female terrorism is an act of revenge. The terrorist act could be a way to retaliate for the death of a loved one.

While close to a third of male and female terrorists had family ties to terrorism, for over half of them this family connection played no part in why they committed terrorist acts.

Media representations of female terrorists may be outdated stereotypes or influenced by studies of male terrorists. This new psychological profile of female terrorists proves that these women chose to be terrorists and are not weak individuals who were easy targets for terrorist recruitment.

The study was published by the American Psychological Association.