In recent years there has been increasing interest in juvenile criminals, specifically those who kill. Criminal behavior is learned in social environments (Sutherland, 1939). Physical abuse, sexual abuse, instability of caretaker situation and/or residency, absence of a father, parental alcohol or drug abuse, parental psychiatric history, parental criminal background, and violence in the home are eight prominent familial factors that researchers have attributed to the profile of juvenile killers (Heckle & Shumaker, 2001). The students committed these shootings was because they had an unstable family relationship, leading to abnormal societal bonds.( Hirschi). Durkheim would suggest that these juveniles who commit school shootings feel a sense of normlessness in their society, and, therefore, act out in violence.
The original study focused on several factors, the prominent ones being rejection and ostracism.
Previous research has suggested that different factors influence different types of violence within schools. Some have blamed violence on the macro structure of the school, while others have placed blame on the more micro-level environment within the school.
Homicides can be divided into categories specifying the type of killing committed. One type, senseless homicides, can then be subcategorized into six groups—“thrill” killings, “hate” killings, “romantic” murder-suicides, “revenge” killings, “cult-related” killings, and killings that are carried out by mentally disturbed individuals (Ewing, 1990).
Senseless killings are “committed by relatively normal juveniles acting on impulse—often in conjunction with or under the influence of other juveniles” (Ewing, 1990, p 63). Most school shootings would be classified as a senseless killing under the subcategory of revenge since the juvenile shooters tend to seek retribution from those who have wronged them at school.Newman(Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings) explored ten different theories. They included mental illness, what they called “he just snapped,” family problems, bullying, peer support, changing communities, culture of violence, gun availability, violent media, and the copycat effect.
"Fantasies and dreams often stimulate productive human activity. They also drive the healthy psychological development of children and adolescents, making possible prospective, or “wishful,” thinking and creativity. So it is normal for an adolescent boy to escape into reveries about lovemaking with his girlfriend during an acutely boring class in school.Of course, dreams and daydreams sometimes have a dark and violent cast to them. Almost everyone has imagined vengeful scenarios, even murderous ones, after particularly frustrating experiences, according to research by psychologist David Buss of the University of Texas at Austin. Such fantasies can defuse tension and thus might be considered a type of psychological hygiene. As Austrian psychoanalyst Theodor Reik put it: “A thought murder a day keeps the psychiatrist away.”But what is cleansing to a healthy mind may overwhelm a less balanced psyche. Signs of psychic trouble include being excessively introverted and lacking strong social attachments. Violent offenders are also often pessimistic about their future and have low self-esteem; many have been harassed, bullied or rejected by classmates; suspended from school; or pressured by teachers.Adolescents who saw or otherwise experienced violence at a young age are very susceptible to intense brutal fantasies, points out clinical psychologist Al Carlisle, who practices in Price, Utah, and has long studied serial killers and young violent criminals. Such experiences, Carlisle says, foster a belief that violence is the only way to gain recognition and respect.An unbalanced adolescent often embellishes his daydreams with details of the venue and manner of the imagined massacre in some cases, amassing ideas from violent or violence-promoting movies, games and Web sites. Schools are a natural target because adolescents experience the worst slights in school. As fantasies become increasingly important to a disturbed youth, he begins to neglect his real relationships to focus on the mechanics of the deed he has dreamed about. Then a serious frustration, such as the breakup of one of his last friendships, may redouble his efforts to sketch out his killing.Access to weapons is yet a further cause for alarm, indicating that the youth has the means to turn fantasy into reality...."
"Deadly Dreams: What Motivates School Shootings? -By Frank J. Robertz
School violence in general has also been attributed to the location of the school and of the residence of the student (Kramer, 2000). Kramer argues that “broader social and economic forces such as poverty, inequality, and social exclusion shape most of the problem of youth violence in America”
Other authorities on the topic of school violence place the blame on the structure and organization of the school itself. The shooters were experiencing severe emotional, social, and/or behavioral problems or that they had such rage against the institution” (Fox & Harding) Another factor that some believe helps contribute to school shootings is that schools are not taking sufficient measures in order to prevent these types of disasters. Dewey G. Cornell believed that violent youth fall into three categories. The first category is the mentally ill who “suffer from delusions that guide behavior” .The second category, which contains two-thirds of all violent youth, are the antisocial youth who have “a long history of delinquent of (sic) disruptive problems evident in early childhood”.The third category has no name. These are the “normal youngsters whose acts of violence surprise us” They are “highly sensitive to teasing and bullying, are deeply resentful, ruminating over perceived injustices” According to McCabe and Martin, bullying has four initial elements: an imbalance of power, intent to harm, a threat of further aggression, and terror. They also argue that bullies have a need for power and control and “tend to come from families where physical punishment is the norm and bonding among parents and children is limited”. In their research, they also discovered six common traits of bullies. These traits are: a desire for domination, manipulation of others to obtain a goal, egocentrism of the bully, the view that the prey are weaker, the failure to accept responsibility for their actions,and the seeking of attention. Those who are bullied may associate with other victims and may participate in antisocial activities, such as school shootings.But no one can be sure that bullying directly influences these incidents.
“The attacker developed the idea to harm the target before the attack” and “in well over ¾ of the incidents, the attacker planned the attack”( United States Secret Service) They were also able to identify bullying as a major influence in school shootings. They discovered “In over 2/3 of the cases, the attackers felt persecuted, bullied, threatened, attacked or injured by others prior to the incident” and “a number of attackers had experienced bullying and harassment that was longstanding and severe” Leary (2003) found that the perpetrators of school shootings were seen as outcasts within their schools and that as rejection increased, so did the danger of aggressive behavior. The rejection that the perpetrators suffered gave them the impression that they were not accepted or valued. To exacerbate these feelings of rejection and hurt, most of the bullying and ostracism occurred in public and in front of other people. The results of the Leary found that “in at least 12 of the 15 incidents, the perpetrator(s) had been subject to a pattern of malicious teasing or bullying”. The researchers were adamant in noting that “few of the perpetrators attributed their violent behavior to other equally plausible causes, such as disinterested parents, a broken home, child abuse, academic failure or psychological problems”( Leary et al). Gillespie (2002) believes bullying at school plays a significant role in the events leading up to a school shooting as well.
Many people believe school shootings occur when students unpredictably snap because they are bullied to the point where they feel they need to seek justice on their own behalf. McCabe and Martin (2005) also believe that the social control is applicable to school violence. The attachment element regards peers and family. The commitment is to society, and is shown by following the rules. Involvement is an opportunity to create a social bond. This means that if one is involved in a socially acceptable activity, there is little or no time for delinquency. And finally, belief regards the rules of the school. If a student does not believe in the rules, he or she is more likely to break them and become delinquent.
Anomie theory explains that school shootings come about as the result of a state of confusion or normlessness. Other research has related violence by juveniles to the way they are disciplined.Public fears demanded answers in hopes of providing some veneer that future events could be prevented, most typically through notions of profiling, which offered the possibility of identifying likely shooters be fore the acts were perpetrated. Most scholars recognize that empirical evidence on school shooters is slim (Borum, 2000; Ferguson, 2008)
„Each school shooting — like any act of violence — is unique. Sadly, as with most acts of senseless violence, whatever explanations offered will be unsatisfactory and not really explain much of anything. Bullying? Most bullies don’t go on a shooting rampage. Disenfranchised? Many teenagers experience similar feelings without killing others. Has emotional or behavioral problems? Again, most teens with such problems aren’t violent, much less murderous.” (By John M. Grohol, PsyD)
Source:School Shootings: The Deadly Result of Teasing and Ostracism?(Georgie Ann Weatherby, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice, Gonzaga University, Sara Strachila, Gonzaga University,
Bridget McMahon, Gonzaga University)Journal of criminology and criminal justice research.