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school shooting research

Fabio

Social scientists and the public have two different views of school shootings. The public, goaded by the sensationalistic media, believes that our schools are getting more dangerous. In contrast, social scientists note that schools have become safer over time and school shootings are a very rare event. Despite this basic finding, social scientists find school shootings hard to understand because there are so few of them. How can you say X causes school shootings when there are only a few shootings per year? You don’t have enough cases for comparison and testing for different factors.

I found a very nice 2002 paper by David J. Harding, Cybelle Fox, and Jal Mehta that addresses this question. It’s called “Studying Rare Events Through Qualitative Case Studies: Lessons from a Study of Rampage School Shootings,” published in Sociological Methodology and Research. This was part of a bigger project culminating in the book Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings authored by the same team with Katherine Newman and Wendy Roth.

The gist of the paper is that you can’t completely solve the “degrees of freedom problem” (i.e., having enough examples to isolate specific variables) but you can build rich case studies showing the convergence of specific factors which lets you update your prior beliefs. Qualitative case studies can be superior to regression analysis because case studies often show the convergence of multiple factors in few cases. In the regression framework, you would have to have a bunch of interaction variables which can behave poorly due to statistical reasons associated with only having a handful of observed events.

And for the curious, the cluster of factors that characterize school shootings are: school shootings tend to be carried by former/current employees or students who feel the need to avenge perceived wrongs and they use the school as a public stage for their rage. They rarely pick on the actual people who allegedly wronged them, but choose symbolically charged people (like principals) or random people. The psychologists would probably add that school shooters tend to be psychopaths, people who have an exaggerated sense of importance and see the rest of the world as extremely defective, inferior and disposable. This research shows that school shootings are not random events, but emerge from the very specific circumstance of a person with an extreme personality disorder who has access to firearms.

Written by fabiorojas

October 1, 2006 at 7:33 pm

6 Responses

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  1. I’m prompted to ask whether the research shows a gender breakdown of school shooting perpetrators. Having just read a blog post on BlogHer about why is it always men deciding to take out their psychopathic urges on random (usually innocent) people, I’m now wondering whether the statistics bear that statement out.

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    Mari Kuraishi

    October 3, 2006 at 10:50 pm

  2. […] academic colleagues. In the spirit of trying to improve public safety, here’s a link to our previous discussion on what social scientists know about school shootings. Hopefully, this might encourage more research that might make our schools and universities safer […]

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  3. […] life. Don’t they realize that the path seems much clearer in hindsight than it does in attempting to predict these types of events? Do they even realize what a bind universities are in when it comes to what […]

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  4. In my participation in government class my partner Lacey and I have started a public policy regarding lethal violence in schools mainly shootings our public policy states; “We should place metal detectors and X-ray machines at all of the student accessible entrances, in every school in order to minimize the possibility of violent school acts, mainly shootings”. I am well aware that this act would infringe upon individuals rights, but something needs to be done I strongly disagree with the zero tolerance program on the account that shootings over the last past 10 years have INCREASED and the elementary students have been charged with harassment and that they have been disciplined for bringing a plastic axe to school with their Halloween costumes. I know that shootings compared to the amount of schools is a extremely low number, but I believe that extinguishing shootings all together is almost a moral argument not looking at static’s but at peoples live that have been extinguished. I would greatly appreciate a response to the idea of this public policy, thank you.
    Matthew Blair

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    Matthew Blair

    May 30, 2007 at 1:58 pm

  5. In my participation in government class my partner Lacey and I have started a public policy regarding lethal violence in schools, (mainly shootings) our public policy states; “We should place metal detectors and X-ray machines at all of the student accessible entrances, in every school in order to minimize the possibility of violent school acts, mainly shootings”. I am well aware that this act would infringe upon individuals rights, but something needs to be done I strongly disagree with the zero tolerance program on the account that shootings over the last past 10 years have INCREASED and the elementary students have been charged with harassment and that they have been disciplined for bringing a plastic axe to school with their Halloween costumes. (http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/OVRC?vrsn=230&slb=SU&locID=skan42432&srchtp=basic&c=83&ste=17&tbst=ts_basic&tab=1&txb=%2522School+Violence%2522&docNum=X3010032221&fail=0&bConts=1919) I know that shootings compared to the amount of schools is a extremely low number, but I believe that extinguishing shootings all together is almost a moral argument not looking at static’s but at peoples live that have been extinguished. I would greatly appreciate a response to the idea of this public policy, thank you.
    Matthew Blair

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    Matthew Blair

    May 30, 2007 at 2:01 pm

  6. Two new studies show why some people are more attractive for members of the opposite sex than others.

    The University of Florida, Florida State University found that physically attractive people almost instantly attract the attention of the interlocutor, sobesednitsy with them, literally, it is difficult to make eye. This conclusion was reached by a series of psychological experiments, which were determined by the people who believe in sending the first seconds after the acquaintance. Here, a curious feature: single, unmarried experimental preferred to look at the guys, beauty opposite sex, and family, people most often by representatives of their sex.

    The authors believe that this feature developed a behavior as a result of the evolution: a man trying to find a decent pair to acquire offspring. If this is resolved, he wondered potential rivals. Detailed information about this magazine will be published Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

    In turn, a joint study of the Rockefeller University, Rockefeller University and Duke University, Duke University in North Carolina revealed that women are perceived differently by men smell. During experiments studied the perception of women one of the ingredients of male pheromone-androstenona smell, which is contained in urine or sweat.

    The results were startling: women are part of this repugnant odor, and the other part is very attractive, resembling the smell of vanilla, and the third group have not felt any smell. The authors argue that the reason is that the differences in the receptor responsible for the olfactory system, from different people are different.

    It has long been proven that mammals (including human) odor is one way of attracting the attention of representatives of the opposite sex. A detailed article about the journal Nature will publish.

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    Consoxope

    November 16, 2007 at 6:40 am


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