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Mass Murder at School and Cumulative Strain a Sequential Model
American Behavioral Scientist
  • Jack Levin
  • Eric Madfis, University of Washington Tacoma
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To explain the genesis of mass murder committed by students at their schools, the authors propose a five-stage sequential model in which several criminological theories (strain theory, control theory, and routine activities theory) are brought to bear collectively to demonstrate their cumulative effect. These stages are as follows: chronic strain, uncontrolled strain, acute strain, the planning stage, and the massacre. Long-term frustrations (chronic strains) experienced early in life or in adolescence lead to social isolation, and the resultant lack of prosocial support systems (uncontrolled strain) in turn allows a short-term negative event (acute strain), be it real or imagined, to be particularly devastating. As such, the acute strain initiates a planning stage, wherein a mass killing is fantasized about as a masculine solution to regain lost feelings of control, and actions are taken to ensure the fantasy can become reality. The planning process concludes in a massacre facilitated by weapons that enable mass destruction in schoolrooms and campuses, where students are closely packed together. Based on this analysis, prevention strategies are suggested.
pre-print, post-print
Citation Information
Jack Levin and Eric Madfis. "Mass Murder at School and Cumulative Strain a Sequential Model" American Behavioral Scientist Vol. 52 Iss. 9 (2009) p. 1227 - 1245
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