Why were young males behind recent attacks on schools and public gatherings?

April 2, 2014
©2014 Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers

Recent mass killings at schools, movie theaters, political rallies, and races, whether in the U.S., Norway, or elsewhere around the globe, have generally been perpetrated by young males 15-30 years of age. In a provocative Roundtable Discussion published in the preview issue of Violence and Gender, a new peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers, a multidisciplinary expert panel explores the possible reasons for high incidence of these crimes, especially in the U.S., and the motives of the young male perpetrators. The article is available free on the Violence and Gender website.

Topics discussed include the influence of the copycat phenomenon, whether these acts tend to be impulsive or deliberate and well-planned, triggers for these actions and whether revenge is involved, the impact of the current culture in schools in the U.S., and the general issue of access to firearms.

Violence and Gender Editor-in-Chief Mary Ellen O'Toole, PhD, Senior FBI Profiler/Criminal Investigative Analyst (ret.), served as Moderator of the Roundtable entitled "Why Do Young Males Attack Schools? Seven Discipline Leaders Share Their Perspectives." Panel participants included Jorge Folino, MD, PhD, National University of La Plata (Buenos Aires, Argentina), James Garbarino, PhD, Loyola University (Chicago, IL), Steven Gorelick, PhD, Hunter College (New York, NY), Helinä Häkkänen-Nyholm, PhD, PsyJuridica Ltd. (Espoo, Finland), J. Reid Meloy, PhD, University of California San Diego School of Medicine, Yuki Nishimura, MD, PhD, Keio University Health Center (Japan), and Stanton Samenow, PhD, private practitioner (Alexandria, VA).

"Violence and Gender will continue to explore the many factors involved in these mass shootings, from causality to prevention," says Dr. O'Toole. "A key area of focus for future research and study could involve identifying the phases of development for this behavior in order to highlight when teachers and others can first expect to observe the manifestation of behaviors consistent with a student beginning to feel alienated, marginalized, and angry. These are not impulsive acts of violence. There are signs along the way, and if we know what to look for we can see it coming."

Explore further: Is the male or female brain more vulnerable to triggers of violent behavior?

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