ArticlePDF Available

Teasing, Rejection, and Violence: Case Studies of the School Shootings



Media commentators have suggested that recent school shootings were precipitated by social rejection, but no empirical research has examined this claim. Case studies were conducted of 15 school shootings between 1995 and 2001 to examine the possible role of social rejection in school violence. Acute or chronic rejection—in the form of ostracism, bullying, and/or romantic rejection—was present in all but two of the incidents. In addition, the shooters tended to be characterized by one or more of three other risk factors—an interest in firearms or bombs, a fascination with death or Satanism, or psychological problems involving depression, impulse control, or sadistic tendencies. Implications for understanding and preventing school violence are discussed. Aggr. Behav. 29:202–214, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Volume 29, pages 202–214 (2003)
Teasing, Rejection, and Violence: Case Studies
of the School Shootings
Mark R. Leary*
Robin M. Kowalski,
Laura Smith,
and Stephen Phillips
Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina
Media commentators have suggested that recent school shootings were precipitated by social rejection,
but no empirical research has examined this claim. Case studies were conducted of 15 school shootings
between 1995 and 2001 to examine the possible role of social rejection in school violence. Acute or
chronic rejection—in the form of ostracism, bullying, and/or romantic rejection—was present in all but
two of the incidents. In addition, the shooters tended to be characterized by one or more of three other
risk factors—an interest in firearms or bombs, a fascination with death or Satanism, or psychological
problems involving depression, impulse control, or sadistic tendencies. Implications for understanding
and preventing school violence are discussed. Aggr. Behav. 29:202–214, 2003. rWiley-Liss, Inc.
Key words: school violence; rejection; peer aggression
Students, teachers, parents, and school administrators have become increasingly concerned in
recent years about the rising tide of school violence. Since 1996, nearly 40 students have been
killed and several dozen others have been injured in shootings that occurred at school. The
spate of school violence has led to much discussion of the causes of such episodes, which have
variously been attributed to lax gun control laws, society-wide moral decline, the influence of
aspects of popular culture that glamorize death (such as aggressive song lyrics and the so-
called ‘‘Goth’’ movement), violent video games, and even the failure to display the ten
commandments in school buildings [e.g., Chua-eoan, 1997; Gibbs and Roche, 1999]. Without
discounting any of the other proposed causes, our interest in this article is specifically in the
role that interpersonal rejection may play in school violence.
In analyzing the attack at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in 1999, several
commentators suggested that at least some of the school shootings, including the one at
Columbine, may have been precipitated by rejection by schoolmates or others. One
newspaper noted that the perpetrators of school shootings ‘‘uniformly have felt like outsiders
taunted by peers’’ [Peterson, 1999, p. 3], and testimony presented to the House Judiciary
Committee after the Columbine shootings suggested that a typical school shooter feels
‘‘lonely and isolated. They are highly sensitive to teasing and bullying, and are deeply
Correspondence to: Mark R. Leary, Department of Psychology, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem,
NC 27109. E-mail:
Received 23 April 2001; amended version accepted 14 December 2001
Published online in Wiley InterScience ( DOI:10.1002/ab.10061
r2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
resentful, ruminating over perceived injustices’’ [Cornell, 1999]. When students in Maryland
met to discuss the causes of school violence, the most commonly reported causal factor was
‘‘failing to fit in’’ [Perlstein, 1999, p. B02].
Psychological theory and research support the speculation that social rejection may be
associated with aggression. Several studies of children have documented a relationship
between peer rejection and aggressive behavior [Marano, 1998; Pakaslahti and Keltikangas,
1998; Waas, 1987; for reviews, see Coie et al., 1990; McDougall et al., 2001]. For example,
although average and rejected boys become equally angered and aggressive when provoked,
rejected boys respond more aggressively without justification [Coie et al., 1990]. Furthermore,
once aggression has started, children who are generally rejected by their peers are more
inclined to intensify their aggression and less likely to submit than nonrejected children [Coie
et al., 1991]. Of course, cross-sectional designs do not allow us to determine whether rejection
leads to aggression, or behaving aggressively increases the likelihood of being rejected.
However, a longitudinal study of 880 elementary and middle-school students showed not
only that peer rejection was a consistently powerful predictor of aggression and other
externalizing problems, but that as rejection increased over time, so did the risk of aggressive
behavior [Kupersmidt et al., 1995]. Similarly, rejection by parents is also associated with
higher aggression in childhood [Pemberton and Benady, 1973]. In fact, one study concluded
that parental rejection ‘‘was the most prominent predictor of synchronous aggression,
predicting well for both boys and girls’’ [Lefkowitz et al., 1973, p. 39].
Among adults, a great deal of anger and aggression also appears to be precipitated by real,
perceived, or threatened rejection. Research on unrequited love shows that anger is a
common response to having one’s romantic desires thwarted [Baumeister et al., 1993], and
both empirical and anecdotal evidence suggest that people who are ostracized often become
angry and lash out at those who ignore them [Williams, 1997; Williams and Zudro, 2001].
People who feel that another individual does not value their relationship as much as they
would like often become hurt and angry, and sometimes behave aggressively [Leary and
Springer, 2001; Leary et al., 1998]. Many cases of domestic violence occur when one partner
does not feel adequately valued by the other [Gelles and Straus, 1988]; people are often
assaulted or killed by their lovers in a fit of jealous rage that was provoked by a real or
imagined rejection [Pinker, 1997; Tangney and Salovey, 1999]. Recent experimental research
also shows that real or imagined rejection increases the urge to aggress toward both the
rejector and other people [Buckley, unpublished data; Twenge et al., 2001]. In brief, extant
research showing a link between interpersonal rejection and aggressive behavior provides
support for the hypothesis that school shootings may be provoked by real or imagined
interpersonal rejection.
Among adolescents, rejection tends to occurs in one of three forms—teasing, ostracism,
and romantic rejection. First, disliked and unpopular individuals may be bullied, taunted,
and maliciously teased [Kindlon and Thompson, 1999; Marano, 1998; Olweus, 1984].
who are the victims of bullying and teasing receive a clear message that the perpetrators do
not like, value, or accept them. Furthermore, bullying and teasing typically occur in the
presence of other people, thereby providing an element of public humiliation as well. Public
attacks may connote even greater interpersonal rejection than private ones because the
perpetrator communicates not only that he or she dislikes the victim but is willing to publicly
In this article, all mentions of teasing refer to malicious teasing. Some instances of teasing may be good-natured and
evoke positive responses in the target [Kowalski, 2003; Sharkey, 1992].
Teasing, Rejection, and Violence 203
let the rejection be known. In the case of the Columbine shootings, media reports widely
acknowledged that the shooters had been taunted and humiliated by other students, raising
the question of whether bullying is a common feature of school shootings.
Second, certain individuals may be routinely ostracized and ignored by large segments of
their peer groups. In many instances, being relegated to the periphery of social life is neither
malicious nor intentional, but rather the result of simple disinterest. Individuals who are
particularly shy or eccentric, who possess undesirable social characteristics, or who do not
share other students’ interests may simply be ignored. Of course, in other instances, people
may be purposefully excluded from social activities (and even informed that they are being
left out). William James [1890] was among the first to suggest that this sort of widespread
rejection may precipitate rage: ‘‘If no one turned round when we entered, answered when we
spoke, or minded what we did, but if every person we met ‘cut us dead,’ and acted as if we
were non-existing things, a kind of rage and impotent despair would ere long well up in us,
from which the cruelest bodily torture would be a relief’’ [p. 281]. Presumably, it would not
have surprised James to learn that the shooters in Littleton were reputed to have been
ostracized by many students at Columbine High School [Gibbs and Roche, 1999].
Third, romantic rejections—in the form of both unrequited love or the breakup of an
existing relationship—are common in adolescence. These events are typically distressing and
hurtful, but they may also provoke intense anger and resentment, if not overt aggression
[Baumeister et al., 1993].
In brief, many converging pieces of empirical and anecdotal evidence support the idea that
various forms of rejection cause anger and may lead to aggression. Our primary interest in
the present study was in documenting whether rejection was in fact involved in recent school
shootings and in identifying other possible contributors to school violence among people who
have been rejected. After all, most students who experience rejection, even those who are
bullied and ostracized, do not resort to lethal violence. Thus, it seems likely that other risk
factors must be present in addition to social rejection.
Our approach to this question necessarily involved a case study method. Although case
studies cannot provide strong evidence relevant to the validity of a particular hypothesis, they
can nonetheless provide data that is either consistent or inconsistent with it. Finding evidence
of an unusual degree of rejection in the lives of those who perpetrated school shootings would
lend support to the hypothesis that rejection may have been involved, and, conversely, failing
to find consistent evidence of rejection would lead us to question the connection. The
evidence from such case studies is by no means as convincing as that obtained from
controlled experimentation, but it is the method of choice for a low-frequency phenomenon
such as school violence for which experimental research is impossible.
The focus of the study was on all well-documented cases of school violence in the United
States from January, 1995 to March, 2001. We began with 1995 because that was the year in
which school shootings began to receive national attention. There has always been sporadic
violence in schools but, because the cases were infrequent, they were not covered by the
media in sufficient depth to permit the kind of analysis we desired.
To be included in our sample, a shooting incident must have occurred at a school during
the school day. Shootings that occurred after school hours, for example at school dances and
204 Leary et al.
athletic events, were not included. (For example, in 1998, a 14-year-old student used a
semiautomatic pistol to kill a teacher and injure three other people at a high school dance in
Edinboro, PA.). In addition, the shooting must have been perpetrated by students and
resulted in injury or death to at least one student. Cases in which shots were fired but no one
was injured were excluded because the perpetrators may have intended to impress or
intimidate their peers rather than harm them (and, thus, would not constitute acts of
aggression). Furthermore, incidents in which the only victims were nonstudents were not
considered (such as the shooting of an assistant principal in Greensboro, NC) because we
were explicitly concerned only with students’ aggression toward their peers.
We set out to obtain information about these incidents of school violence that would
permit us to test the hypothesis that rejection preceded each school shooting. Several sources
of information were consulted. First, national news media were scoured for information. In
particular, we consulted three news magazines—Time,Newsweek,andUS News and World
Report—and three widely circulated newspapers—USA Today,The New York Times, and
The Washington Post for articles about the school shootings in question. For many of the
shootings, these sources provided sufficient information. If not, newspapers from the local
area in which the shooting occurred were consulted. We also explored several world wide web
sites that deal with school shootings but relied on information obtained there only if the site
was maintained by a reputable news organization (such as CNN, the Associated Press, or a
local newspaper).
For each incident, information was recorded regarding the identities and ages of the
perpetrator(s) and victim(s), as well as details regarding how the shooting occurred. Most
central to our interests, evidence was recorded regarding whether the perpetrator(s) had
experienced a pattern of ongoing, chronic ostracism, bullying, or malicious teasing and/or an
experience of acute rejection (such as a romantic breakup or a particularly humiliating
experience) prior to the shooting. Raters also recorded any indication that the perpetrator
(a) had conveyed an intense interest in guns, bombs, or explosives (such as owning a gun or
building bombs), (b) seemed to be fascinated by death (such as listening to music with death-
related themes, practicing Satanism, or developing a death-related web site), or (c) showed
evidence of a psychological disorder prior to the shooting.
Three raters read every available report of the school shootings and independently
recorded information relevant to these issues. In compiling the collected information,
collaboration was sought for all points, and disagreements regarding details were resolved by
a fourth individual. In all, we identified 15 cases that met the selection criteria and for which
sufficient information could be obtained from our sources. We identified five other episodes
for which we could not find enough information relevant to our target questions, often no
more than the fact that a shooting had occurred, and those cases were not included in our
Before summarizing our findings relative to rejection and school violence, we will describe
each of the shooting episodes to provide a fuller picture of the nature of the episodes.
Shootings for which we could not locate sufficient information included incidents in Richmond, VA (1995),
St. Louis, MO (1996), Los Angeles, CA (1996), West Palm Beach, FL (1997), and Norwalk, CT (1997).
Teasing, Rejection, and Violence 205
Descriptions of the Incidents
Moses Lake, WA (2/2/96). Barry Lockaitis, age 14, used a .30 caliber rifle to kill a teacher
and two boys, and injure one girl. He was reportedly severely depressed at the time and was
described as having an inferiority complex. He had been teased by one of the victims, who
was an athlete.
Bethel, AK (2/19/97). Evan Ramsey, age 16, killed his principal and a student, and
injured two other people. He had been teased by the student he killed. There may have been
some short-term forethought involved because authorities accused two other students of
knowing that the shootings would take place.
Pearl, Mississippi (10/1/97). Sixteen-year-old Luke Woodham killed two students and
his mother with a hunting rifle, and injured seven others. One of the victims was a girl he once
dated, another was a friend of his ex-girlfriend, and the rest of the injured appeared to be
randomly chosen. He was described as a chubby kid who was often teased. Woodham
reportedly said ‘‘I killed because people like me are mistreated every day.’’ He allegedly
worshiped Satan and was fascinated with the Gothic lifestyle.
West Paducah, KY (12/1/97). Armed with a semiautomatic pistol, Michael Carneal, age
14, killed three classmates and injured five others at a prayer meeting before school. An
ongoing pattern of rejection was clear; he was regularly teased as a ‘‘dweeb’’ or ‘‘faggot,’’ had
been called ‘‘gay’’ in the school paper, and was regularly bullied. Carneal had also
experienced a recent episode of unrequited love; the girl with whom he was infatuated was the
first person he shot. He also had a history of psychological problems and was eventually
judged ‘‘guilty but mentally ill.’’ After his arrest, Carneal said that he had grown tired of
being teased and was quoted as saying ‘‘people respect me now.’’
Stamps, AR (12/15/97). Jason ‘‘Colt’’ Todd, 14 years old, wounded two students with a
sniper’s rifle. He claimed that he was tired of being picked on and that some of his
schoolmates had extorted money from him in exchange for not hurting him.
Jonesboro, AR (4/24/98). Andrew Golden, 11, and Mitchell Johnson, 13, opened fire
with handguns and rifles on Westside Middle School, killing 5 people and injuring 11 others.
Johnson, clearly the leader in the episode, was allegedly angry about being rejected by a girl,
telling friends that he ‘‘had a lot of killing to do.’’ He also had been repeatedly
teased for being fat. He also bragged about using drugs and killing animals, allegedly had
attempted suicide, and had been accused of molesting a 2-year-old girl. His parents were
distant, often calling the police looking for their son. Golden came from a supportive family
but, like Johnson, had also been rejected by a girlfriend. He was described as tough and
Fayetteville, TN (5/19/98). Honor student Jacob Davis, age 18, killed a male classmate
who was dating his ex-girlfriend, who had recently broken up with Davis. The perpetrator
and victim had recently had an argument about the girl.
Springfield, OR (5/21/98). Kipland Kinkel, age 15, used a semiautomatic rifle and a
pistol to kill two classmates and injure 22 others, in addition to killing his parents. In his
journal, he had written about being rejected by a girl, and had recently been suspended from
school for possessing a firearm and stolen property. He believed that he had embarrassed his
parents and was reportedly upset over teasing from other students. He abused animals,
showed interest in making bombs, was under treatment for depression, and was voted ‘‘most
likely to start World War III’’ by other students. Evidence presented at his trial suggested
that he was possibly schizophrenic.
206 Leary et al.
Littleton, CO (4/20/1999). Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, opened fire on
classmates at Columbine High School using semiautomatic weapons, shotguns, and rifles,
then committed suicide. At least 21 people were injured, and 13 people (12 students, one
teacher) were killed. The attack had been planned for more than a year. Both boys had been
ostracized, taunted, and bullied by other students, particularly athletes. In addition, Harris
had been rejected from the Marines a week before the attack and was turned down by a girl
whom he had asked to the prom. He was on medication for depression. Klebold reportedly
admired Hitler and hurled insults at minorities. Evidence collected after the shootings
suggested that the incident was, in part, retribution for how they had been treated by other
students. In the videotapes that the killers made prior to their rampage, the boys recounted
episodes of teasing and ostracism. ‘‘I’m going to kill you all,’’ Klebold said. ‘‘You’ve been
giving us shit for years’’ [Gibbs and Roche, 1999].
Conyers, GA (5/20/99). T. J. Solomon, 15, used a handgun and .22 caliber rifle stolen
from his parents to injure six people. He had reportedly been depressed after a break-up with
his girlfriend, claiming that he had ‘‘no reason to live anymore.’’ He apparently aimed low
intentionally and never intended to kill anyone. Solomon had been picked on by a football
player, and feared becoming the school ‘‘wuss.’’ He had been treated for depression, and
bomb recipes were found at his home, yet people described him as normal.
Ft. Gibson, OK (12/6/99). Seth Trickey, 13, walked up to a group of students at his
middle school and started firing with a 9 mm handgun. He didn’t seem to know the children
he shot and said he did not know why he did it. Trickey was described as a honor student
who others regarded as funny, nice, and good-natured. He was popular and well-liked, and
clearly not a loner. Trickey has never provided a plausible reason for his actions.
Mount Morris Township, MI. (2/29/00). A six-year-old boy pointed a gun at a fellow
first-grader, said ‘‘I don’t like you,’’ and killed her. The day before the shooting, the two
children had argued with one another, and the victim had purportedly slapped the
perpetrator. Reportedly, he wanted to get revenge by scaring her with the gun. The boy had
been left in the care of an uncle, who lived in a suspected crack house, so that his mother
could work two jobs.
Santee, CA (03/05/01). Having boasted to his friends about the fact that he was going to
cause trouble at his school, Andy Williams, age 15, shot two students to death and wounded
13 others. He had been maliciously bullied by his schoolmates and desired simply to ‘‘fit in.’’
His parents divorced early in his life. He rarely saw his mother and although he lived with his
father, did not have a close relationship with him.
Williamsport, PA (03/07/01). In the only school shooting reported here that was
perpetrated by a female, Catherine Bush, 14, shot the head cheerleader at her school
in the shoulder. Catherine had been teased and harassed at her previous school,
leading her parents to transfer her to a smaller, private school, where she was similarly
tormented. She felt betrayed by the victim, who ostensibly had revealed to other students the
contents of e-mails Catherine had sent her. Catherine also suffered from periods of
Summary of Precipitating Factors
Table I presents a summary of our findings for the 15 shootings. Clear evidence for or
against the presence of rejection and other risk factors is indicated. Blank cells in the table
indicate that no information about the item was found in published reports and, thus, is
Teasing, Rejection, and Violence 207
TABLE I. Summary of the School Shooting
(Age) Date
Teasing, ostracism
or other ongoing
rejection Acute rejection
Psychological problems
with guns or
with death or
Moses Lake, WA
Barry Lockaitis
2/2/96 3/1 Teased by one of the
Depressed, ‘‘inferiority
Bethel, AL
Evan Ramsey
2/19/97 2/2 Teased by student he
Pearl, MS
Luke Woodham
10/1/97 3/7 Chronically picked on;
teased as a nerd; he
and friends were
Recent romantic
one victim was girl
he had dated
Labeled borderline;
perception and judgment
problems; animal abuse
No Yes; Satanic
West Paducah, KY
Michael Carneal
12/1/97 3/5 Chronically teased;
was rejected as
‘‘dweeb’’ and ‘‘fag’’
Unrequited love;
object of affection
was first person shot
Found ‘‘guilty but
mentally ill’’
Brought guns
to school
Stamps, AR
Jason Todd
12/15/97 0/2 Picked on; students
extorted money
Jonesboro, AR
Mitchell Johnson
3/24/98 5/10 Teased for being
Romantic break-up;
killed ex-girlfriend
Killed animals,
threatened violence;
alleged suicide attempt,
acted ‘‘strange’’
interested in
Andrew Golden
Rejected by girlfriend Yes; gun
Fayetteville, TN
Jacob Davis
5/19/98 1/0 Romantic break-up;
victim was dating
208 Leary et al.
Springfield, OR
Kipland Kinkel
5/21/98 4/25 Teased by older
Suspended from
school; was fixated
on girl who was
lukewarm to him
Abused animals,
often threatened
violence, depressed;
possibly schizopherenic
Yes; bomb-making,
obessed with guns
Littleton, CO
Eric Harris
4/20/99 13/28 Belonged to ostracized
group; taunted and
picked on by athletes;
trouble fitting in
Recently rejected by
Taking Luvox Yes; bomb-making Yes; death
web site;
interest in
Dylan Klebold
Belonged to ostracized
group; taunted and
picked on by athletes
Described as volatile Yes; bomb-making Yes;
death obsessed
music; Hitler
Conyers, GA
T. J. Solomon
5/20/99 0/6 Viewed as a nerd;
picked on; worried
about ostracism
Recent breakup
with girlfriend
Depression, talked
about suicide; ADHD
Yes; bomb recipes No
Deming, NM
Victor Cordova, Jr.
11/21/99 1/0 Depressed; violent
Fort Gibson, OK
Seth Trichey
12/6/99 0/4
Mount Morris
Township, MI
? Owens (6) — first
name not released
2/29/00 1/0 Abandoned by mother Slapped by
vicitim the
day before
History of aggression
and trouble-making
Lived with easy
access to weapons
San Diego, CA
Andy Williams
3/5/01 2/13 Chronically bullied;
locked out of school
for repeated tardiness;
rarely saw mother;
distant father
History of drug use
and gang involvement
Lived with easy
access to weapons
Williamsport, PA
Catherine Bush
3/7/01 0/1 Mercilessly teased by
Victim passed along
secrets shared with
her by the perpetrator
Depression; self-
No No
Teasing, Rejection, and Violence 209
presumed not to be a factor in the shooting. As can be seen from the table and the
descriptions above, interpersonal rejection was clearly indicated in most of the 15 shootings.
In at least 12 of the 15 incidents, the perpetrator(s) had been subject to a pattern of malicious
teasing or bullying—for example, teased for their weight or appearance, maliciously taunted
and humiliated (regularly called a ‘‘nerd,’’ ‘‘dweeb,’’ or ‘‘faggot,’’ for example), or otherwise
picked on. In addition, many cases involved ongoing ostracism that left the perpetrator on
the periphery of the school’s social life. Importantly, in many of the incidents, the victims
included those individuals who had teased, bullied, or rejected the shooter. In about half of
the episodes, the perpetrator had also experienced a recent rejecting event, most commonly a
romantic breakup or unrequited love, and the victims often included the particular
individuals who had spurned them. In only two cases (Ft. Gibson, OK and Deming, NM)
was there no evidence whatsoever that the perpetrator had been rejected or mistreated by
other people.
Although rejection in one form or another was implicated in most of the episodes, the
shooters also tended to be characterized by one or more of the three other risk factors
that we investigated—psychological problems, an interest in guns and explosives, and a
fascination with death. First, at least 10 of the 15 incidents involved a perpetrator who had
shown previous evidence of having psychological problems, including depression, hyperag-
gressiveness, or sadistic tendencies. At least half were known by other students and people in
the community as troubled individuals. Second, six of the cases involved individuals who
were familiar with, if not fascinated by, guns and bombs. At least four perpetrators were
interested in making explosives, as evidenced by the fact that they possessed home-made
bombs or recipes for making them. Third, four of the incidents involved individuals who
showed an interest in death and other ‘‘dark’’ topics, such as death-rock music and Satanic
Our analyses of cases of school violence since 1995 support the hypothesis that social
rejection was involved in most cases of lethal school violence. Twelve of the cases involved an
ongoing pattern of teasing, bullying, or ostracism, and at least six of the perpetrators had
experienced a recent romantic rejection. In only two of the incidents did we find no clear
evidence of rejection; Seth Trichey, who wounded four students in Ft. Gibson, OK, was an
honor student that other students liked, his victims were randomly chosen, and he seemed
unable to explain his actions. Even so, he did not appear remorseful (unlike, for example, the
shooters in Fayetteville, TN, and Conyers, GA), which suggests either that he thought that
the victims deserved their fate or that he was psychologically incapable of empathy. Victor
Cordova, who killed a female student in Deming, NM, also had no history of rejection, but
he had been deeply depressed for some time. These findings are consistent with those
obtained by the U.S. Secret Service and reported in their Safe School Initiative. In their
analysis of school shootings that have occurred in recent years, they found evidence for
bullying, ostracism, and social rejection in over two-thirds of the cases [Vossekuil et al.,
Several of the perpetrators explicitly explained their actions as a response to being
mistreated by other students. For example, the perpetrator of the Pearl, Mississippi shooting
said that he killed because ‘‘people like me are mistreated every day.... No one ever really
210 Leary et al.
cared about me’’ [Chua-eoan, 1997]. Similarly, one of the Jonesboro, Arkansas shooters had
vowed to kill all of the girls who had broken up with him [Blake et al., 1998], and the
Columbine killers’ rage appeared to come from their rejection and mistreatment by other
people. Of course, a murderer’s stated reason for his behavior may reflect nothing more than
a self-serving justification. However, independent evidence from other students and teachers
corroborates the presence of rejection in most of the cases. It is also noteworthy that, to our
knowledge, 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.
Few individuals navigate their way through adolescence without being teased, bullied, or
rejected in some manner, but the vast majority do not exact retribution on their classmates.
Rejection may be frustrating, angering, even maddening [Buckley, unpublished data; Twenge
et al., 2001], but it is rarely sufficient to provoke premeditated violence even if the victim feels
like killing people. Thus, rejection alone, while a possible contributor, does not necessarily
cause violence by itself. The information we collected regarding the three other risk factors
offers hints regarding other contributors to school violence. In particular, most of the
perpetrators displayed at least one of the other three risk factors (psychological problems,
interest in guns or explosives, or fascination with death). Thus, we speculate that rejection,
combined with one or more of these other factors puts an individual at higher risk to
perpetrate aggression against peers.
First, a variety of psychological problems may be associated with an increased tendency for
aggressive behavior. For example, certain personality disorders are characterized by
aggressiveness, paranoia, low impulse control, lack of empathy for other people, and even
sadistic behaviors, all of which may lower one’s threshold for violence [Millon, 1981].
Thus, some instances of school violence may reflect extreme manifestations of an ongoing
pattern of antisocial and aggressive behavior. Many of the shooters had been in trouble
previously for aggression against their peers, and two had allegedly abused animals. In
addition, people who are depressed and perhaps suicidal may behave in desperate ways,
feeling that they having nothing to lose by acting aggressively [Marano, 1998]. The Safe
School Initiative report indicated that perpetrators in over three-fourths of the school
shootings had either threatened or attempted suicide at some time in the recent past
[Vossekuil et al., 2000].
Second, individuals who not only have access to guns but who are fascinated by firearms
and explosives may be more likely to act on their aggressive impulses because they are
comfortable dealing with instruments of destruction than those who are unfamiliar or
uncomfortable with guns and explosives, who do not have the means to perpetrate violence
with firearms and bombs. Experience with guns is by no means necessary, however; the
perpetrator of the West Paducah, Kentucky shooting had apparently not fired a gun before
his rampage.
Third, people who are fascinated by themes of death, and whose identity is linked to
Gothic, Satanic, and other ‘‘dark’’ lifestyles may find the idea of carnage less revolting than
most other people do. It remains unclear whether death-rock music and other aspects of
popular culture that glorify death cause otherwise peaceful adolescents to be violent or
whether individuals who are already inclined toward aggression are simply more interested in
death-related music and activities.
Previous theory and research has not adequately addressed the question of why
rejection sometimes leads to anger and an impulse to aggress. Thomas [1995] suggested
Teasing, Rejection, and Violence 211
that the painful feelings of shame that often result from rejection may provoke
anger and aggression, much in the same way in which physical pain (such as slamming
one’s own hand in a door) can make people angry. Other writers have suggested that
aggression may result from a desire to show that one is not a person to be trifled with
[Nisbett, 1993] or to maintain self-esteem and buttress one’s positive self-concept after an
ego-threatening event [Baumeister et al., 1996]. Without discounting other explanations, we
believe that the primary motive in most of the school shootings seems to have been
retribution, either for an ongoing pattern of ostracism and teasing or for an acute rejection
such as a romantic breakup. In fact, many of the cases were characterized by both an ongoing
pattern of rejection and a specific rejection experience, suggesting that the recent rejection
may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. At the same time, however, the
evidence suggests that at least some of the perpetrators were seeking respect as well. After
killing three and injuring five in West Paducah, KY, Michael Carneal was quoted as saying
‘‘People respect me now,’’ and the Columbine killers fantasized that they would be famous
and that movie directors would fight over making a movie of their story [Gibbs and Roche,
Of course, like all case studies, this one is open to the criticism that the mode of data
collection is necessarily selective and uncontrolled. In particular, the evidence that we
obtained about the episodes from press reports may reflect reporters’ implicit theories about
the link between rejection and aggression; we may have found evidence of such a relationship
because writers in the mass media selectively reported evidence consistent with their
implicit theories. We cannot discount this possibility but find it noteworthy than only a few
of our sources drew an explicit connection between the rejection that the perpetrators had
experienced and their subsequent violent behavior. In most cases, information regarding the
perpetrator’s relationships with other students was mentioned only in the context of
describing the kind of person he or she was. Only after the Columbine shootings in April of
1999 did many writers begin to explore the role than ostracism or rejection may have
Furthermore, like all case studies, ours necessarily lacks an appropriate control
group. Although we can document that most of the perpetrators of these school shootings
had been subjected to teasing, bullying, or other types of rejection, we do not know for
certain whether they experienced an exceptionally high level of mistreatment compared to
other children and adolescents. Given that roughly 75% of elementary and middle school
students are occasionally bullied at school [Kass, 1999], the perpetrators of the school
shootings were by no means unique. Even so, from reading descriptions of their peer
relationships, our sense is that most of the shooters had experienced an unusually high
amount of bullying or ostracism that was particularly relentless, humiliating, and cruel.
Furthermore, when an individual has psychological difficulties, an affinity for guns and
explosives, or a fascination with death and gore, such peer mistreatment may evoke a
catastrophic reaction.
In fact, most writers seem to operate from the hypothesis that the shootings were due to problems with the
perpetrators’ parents. The shooters’ relationships with their parents and siblings were often described in detail, and
neighbors were interviewed regarding the families. Interestingly, with few exceptions, little evidence was unearthed to
indicate that the perpetrators’ families had an unusual number of problems, and the perpetrators themselves often
absolved their parents of any responsibility for their actions. This is not to say that family problems played no role in
the shootings, but rather that the family backgrounds did not fit any particular profile and did not conform to
writers’ assumptions about the homes of teenage murderers.
212 Leary et al.
To the extent that our conclusions are valid, they raise two important issues. The first
involves the toll that bullying and malicious teasing take on many students. Not only do the
majority of elementary and middle school children experience bullying at school [Kass, 1999],
but a poll conducted by the American Psychological Association revealed that 40% of the
youth surveyed expressed concern regarding a potentially violent classmate [‘‘Child
violence,’’ 2000]. Approximately 160,000 school-aged children occasionally stay home
from school to avoid mistreatment at the hands of their peers. Other consequences for
victims of malicious teasing and bullying include feelings of shame, humiliation, depression,
anxiety, and low self-esteem [Kowalski, 2003]. In some instances, victims have even
committed suicide to escape social torment. For example, in 1993, a middle-schooler killed
himself because he was tired of being bullied [Marano, 1998], and in early 2000, a
Washington student killed herself rather than face teasing at school. Thus, the violent
reactions of students who shoot their classmates are only one tragic consequence of school
If the kinds of aversive treatment endured by many of the school shooters were
targeted at a particular group, such mistreatment of other students would not be tolerated by
teachers and school authorities, but because it is aimed rather indiscriminately
(primarily at students who are powerless and unpopular), such antisocial behavior at school
is typically ignored. We believe that steps are needed to reduce the incidence of
teasing and bullying at school, both to improve the quality of life for millions
of students and to reduce the likelihood of violence. Along these lines, students at one
anti-violence conference proposed that Congress enact anti-teasing laws, and the State of
Georgia recently passed an anti-bullying statute. According to this law, students
who bully on three separate occasions within a year will be sent to an alternative school.
Of course, this law fails to take into account the many bullying episodes that go unobserved
and unreported.
Second, our findings offer a tentative profile of the kind of student who may be prone to
violence against his peers. The typical shooter is a male student who has been ostracized by
the majority group at his school for some time, and has been chronically taunted, teased,
harassed, and often publicly humiliated. Moreover, he probably demonstrates one or more of
the three risk factors identified in the present study—an unusual interest in guns and
explosives; a fascination with death, Satan, and other ‘‘dark’’ themes; or psychological
problems that are characterized by depression and/or a personality disorder that involves
antisocial behavior, poor impulse control, or sadistic tendencies. Of course, many young
people share these characteristics yet do not endanger their peers, so actual efforts to predict
which students will behave violently are not likely to be successful [Mulvey and Cauffman,
In light of the many dangers that adolescents face daily, violence at school
is a relatively improbable event for any particular student. Even so, the escalation
in school violence during the past five years points to a problem that needs
attention from researchers. Although it may be difficult to study deadly school
violence systematically (because it occurs so infrequently), additional research
attention could be directed toward milder forms of school aggression, as well as toward
the unenacted aggressive urges and fantasies of students who are teased, bullied,
and ostracized. In addition, controlled experimental research may help us to under-
stand the conditions under which interpersonal rejection does and does not precipitate
Teasing, Rejection, and Violence 213
Baumeister RF, Smart L, Boden JM. 1996. Relation of
threatened egotism to violence and aggression: The
dark side of high self-esteem. Psychol Rev 103:5–33.
Baumeister RF, Wotman SR, Stillwell AM. 1993.
Unrequited love: On heartbreak, anger, guilt, script-
lessness, and humiliation. J Pers Soc Psychol 64:377–
Blake J, Vest J, Parker S. 1998. The children of
Jonesboro. U.S. News and World Report. April 6,
Child violence: The warning signs. 2000. Available: news/261462.asp.
Chua-eoan H. 1997. Mississippi Gothic. Time 150:16.
Coie JD, Dodge KA, Kupersmidt JB. 1990. Peer group
behavior and social status. In Asher SR, Coie JD,
editors. Peer rejection in childhood. New York:
Oxford University Press. p 17–59.
Coie JD, Dodge KA, Terry R, Wright V. 1991. The role
of aggression in peer relations: An analysis of
aggression episodes in boys’ play groups. Child
Dev 62:812–826.
Cornell DG. 1999. Psychology of the school shootings.
Gelles RJ, Straus MA. 1988. Intimate violence: The
causes and consequences of abuse in the American
family. New York: Simon 51.
In conversation. 1999. Asbury Park Press, B1.
James W. 1890. The principles of psychology. Chicago:
Encyclopedia Britannica.
Kass S. 1999. Bullying widespread in middle school, say
three studies. APA Monitor. 30.
Kindlon D, Thompson M. 1999. Raising Cain: Protect-
ing the emotional lives of boys. New York: Ballantine.
Kowalski RM. 2003. Complaining, teasing, and other
annoying behaviors. New Haven, CT: Yale Uni-
versity Press. (in press).
Kupersmidt JB, Burchinal M, Patterson CJ. 1995.
Developmental patterns of childhood peer relations
as predictors of externalizing behavior problems.
Dev Psychopathol 7:825–843.
Leary MR, Springer C. 2001. Hurt feelings: The
neglected emotion. In Kowalski RM, editor. Behav-
ing badly. Washington, DC: American Psychological
Association. p 151–175.
Leary MR, Springer C, Negel L, Ansell E, Evans K.
1998. The causes, phenomenology, and consequences
of hurt feelings. J Pers Soc Psychol 74:1225–1237.
Lefkowitz MM, Huesman LR, Walder LO, Eron LD.
1973. Environmental variables as predictors of
aggressive behavior. International Journal of Group
Tensions, 3:30–47.
Marano HE. 1998. Why doesn’t anybody like me? New
York: Morrow.
McDougall P, Hymel S, Vaillancourt T, Mercer L. 2001.
The consequences of childhood peer rejection. In:
Leary MR, editor. Interpersonal rejection. New
York: Oxford University Press. p 213–247.
Millon T. 1981. Disorders of personality. New York:
Mulvey EP, Cauffman E. 2001. The inherent limits of
predicting school violence. Am Psychol 56: 797–802.
Nisbett RE. 1993. Violence and U.S. regional culture.
Am Psychol 48:441–449.
Olweus D. 1984. Aggressors and their victims: Bullying
at school. In: Frude G, Gault H, editors. Disruptive
behaviors in schools. New York: Wiley. p 57–76.
Pakaslahti L, Keltikangas-Jaervinen L. 1998. Types of
aggressive behavior among aggressive-preferred,
aggressive non-preferred, non-aggressive-preferred,
and non-aggressive non-preferred 14-year old ado-
lescents. Pers Individ Diff 24: 821–828.
Pemberton DA, Benady DR. 1973. Consciously rejected
children. Br J Psychiatry 123:578–578.
Perlstein L. 1999. In Maryland, exploring ways to
promote safety; Student perspectives on violence.
The Washington Post B02. Nov. 2, 1999.
Peterson KS. 1999. Teens understand how taunts lead to
crimes. The Des Moines Register p 3. May 6, 1999.
Pinker S. 1997. How the mind works. New York: W.W.
Sharkey WF. 1992. Use and responses to intentional
embarrassment. Communication Studies 43:257–275.
Tangney JP, Salovey P. 1999. Problematic social
emotions: Shame, guilt, jealousy, and envy. In:
Kowalski RM, Leary MR, editors. The social
psychology of emotional and behavioral problems:
Interfaces of social and clinical psychology. Wa-
shington, DC: American Psychological Association.
p 167–195.
Thomas HE. 1995. Experiencing shame as a precursor to
violence. Bulletin of the Academy of Psychiatry and
Law 23:587–593.
Twenge JM, Baumeister RF, Tice DM, Stucke TS. 2001.
If you can’t join them, beat them: effects of social
exclusion on aggressive behavior. J Pers Soc Psychol
Vossekuil B, Reddy M, Fein R, Borum R, Modzeleski
W. 2000. U.S.S.S. safe school initiative: An interim
report on the prevention of targeted violence in
schools. Washington, DC: U.S. Secret Service,
National Threat Assessment Center.
Waas GA. 1987. Aggressive rejected children: Implications
for school psychologists. J Sch Psychol 25:383–388.
Williams KD. 1997. Social ostracism. In: Kowalski RM,
editor. Aversive interpersonal behaviors. New York:
Plenum. p 133–170.
Williams KD, Zudro L. 2001. Ostracism: On being
ignored, excluded, and rejected. In: Leary MR,
editor. Interpersonal rejection. New York: Oxford
University Press. p 21–53.
214 Leary et al.
... I asked a male friend of mine.... 'They're afraid women will laugh at them,' he said… Then I asked some women students in a quickie poetry seminar I was giving, 'Why do women feel threatened by men?' 'They're afraid of being killed,' they said. (Atwood, 1984, p. 413) Rejecting a romantic partner or potential partner can be a difficult interaction, and, in the worst cases, an interaction that can end in violence, particularly for women rejecting men (Farr, 2019;Leary, Kowalski, Smith, & Phillips, 2003). Therefore, would-be-rejectors may choose to pursue a more indirect strategy of rejection, such as ghosting, to avoid a potentially violent response, and this choice may be affected by the gender of the would-be-target. ...
... Social rejection can be a particularly difficult and threatening interpersonal interaction for both the rejected individual (i.e., the target) and the rejecting individual (i.e., the rejector). A great deal of research has explored the negative consequences of rejection for targets (Feeney, 2004;Leary, Springer, Negel, Ansell, & Evans, 1998;Smart Richman & Leary, 2009;Stenseng, Belsky, Skalicka, & Wichstrøm, 2014;Twenge, Baumeister, Dewall, Ciarocco, & Bartels, 2007;Twenge, Baumeister, Tice, & Stucke, 2001;Warburton, Williams, & Cairns, 2006) and one common response to being rejected is for the target to react aggressively (Leary et al., 2003;Leary, Twenge, & Quinlivan, 2006;Romero-Canyas, Downey, Berenson, Ayduk, & Kang, 2010;Warburton et al., 2006;Wesselmann, Butler, Williams, & Pickett, 2010). It is therefore unsurprising that would-be-rejectors face a difficult situation (Baumeister, Wotman, & Stillwell, 1993;Legate, DeHaan, Weinstein, & Ryan, 2013;Poulsen & Kashy, 2011;Zadro & Gonsalkorale, 2014) in ☆ This paper has been recommended for acceptance by Vanessa Bohns. ...
... In romantic relationship rejection situations, gender may be an especially important factor to consider due to the link between rejection and violence against women (Farr, 2019;Leary et al., 2003). In line with this idea, in the pilot study, when safety concerns were made salient, men were ghosted more than women. ...
Considerable research has examined how people feel when interpersonally rejected. Less attention has been paid to the rejectors, especially on how they reject. Rejection methods can range from direct (i.e., informing the target) to indirect (i.e., ghosting), and the method and motives regarding rejection strategies are important because rejected targets often react negatively to rejection, sometimes even violently. It is imperative, therefore, to understand why people reject the way they do, especially when their rejections may yield unexpected negative consequences. A key factor that may influence rejection method decisions, particularly in the context of romantic rejections, is the gender of the target. Drawing on prior research indicating that men are perceived as more dangerous, in this registered report we hypothesized that bisexual individuals may be more likely to endorse ghosting if the target is a man, especially when safety concerns are made salient. A pilot study supported this hypothesis in a sample of mostly heterosexual individuals. The main study tested this hypothesis in a sample of bisexual individuals in order to manipulate target gender as a within-subjects variable and to better understand romantic rejection processes in an understudied sample. Overall, we found that safety concerns may make individuals more likely to engage in ghosting, but how that decision interacts with target gender was less clear.
... William and Zadro (2001) elucidate that the actions of ostracism/exclusion involve extreme kinds, for example, expulsion from the groups and imprisonment in solitary; to relatively slighter forms, which includes treating others with a silent behavior, unanswered love, ignoring, snubbing, and complete rejection (Hitlan et al., 2006). Similarly, responses to ostracism also vary, i.e., from behaving pro-socially more than required (Williams, 2007) to increased aggressive behavior (Leary et al., 2003). A series of laboratory studies have supported this statement showing that only five minutes of ostracism reduce self-esteem, sense of belonging, meaningful existence and control compared to socially included subjects (Williams, 2007). ...
... Thus, it takes down one's perceived relational value. Reduced relational value threatens an individual's self-esteem (Leary et al., 2003). As self-esteem is a vital resource to tackle unwanted situations, lower self-esteem enhances employees' depressed mood. ...
Full-text available
Ostracism has become a common hurtful phenomenon in the workplace. Researchers and practitioners are interested in identifying the range of consequences for employee attitudes and behaviors caused by workplace ostracism. By drawing on the conservation of resources theory, this paper examines the impact of workplace ostracism on job performance through depressed mood and the moderating effect of employees' political skill in buffering the negative consequences of ostracism on job performance. In this empirical study, the data were collected from 233 employees of private banks using a self-administrative survey method. The proposed hypotheses were tested utilizing the moderated mediation analysis. The results show that the indirect impact of workplace ostracism on job performance through depressed mood becomes weak for individuals with high political skills and vice versa. The present study contributes to the existing stream of knowledge by providing how workplace ostracism transforms into poor performance outcomes by investigating the underpinning mechanism of depressed mood. It also examines an essential but unexplored boundary condition of political skill that detonates the indirect process for the employees with high political skill compared to low.
... A study done by Vossekuil et al. (2002) found that 71% of school shooters experienced rejection. Another study led by Leary (2003) found that K-12 school shooters had a long history of rejection, typically chronic bullying or parental neglect. At least 80% of the school shooters were subjected to teasing and bullying, and the perpetrator was continuously ostracized (Leary et al., 2003). ...
... Another study led by Leary (2003) found that K-12 school shooters had a long history of rejection, typically chronic bullying or parental neglect. At least 80% of the school shooters were subjected to teasing and bullying, and the perpetrator was continuously ostracized (Leary et al., 2003). School shooters are not necessarily loners when looking at their school interactions; they tend to have failed at joining groups or being rejected. ...
Full-text available
School shootings are very prevalent within the United States. As of right now, there is no way to predict school shooting behaviors and traits. Since the Columbine shooting in 1999, psychologists have studied this shooting and others to build assessments to implement within schools. These assessments aim to predict various behaviors that are deemed threatening and use them to de-escalate situations before they occur. There are only seventeen states that have mandated threat assessment protocols on a legislative level. 1,257 school shootings were examined during a 30-year time frame, and 119 took place in states that have mandated threat assessment protocols. t-tests were run on the seventeen states, examining pre- and post-threat assessment implementation and the corresponding number of school shootings and causalities. F-tests were run when comparing states with threat assessment protocols and states without. Threat assessments are very new to the legislative world; 75% of the states with mandates did not mandate until 2018, following Parkland and Santa Fe. The author lays out four recommendations for the implications of this study. Recommendation #1: Every state needs to mandate threat assessment protocols. Recommendation #2: Every state needs to ensure these protocols are being followed precisely. Recommendation #3: The United States needs one cohesive threat assessment protocol to be implemented nationwide throughout schools. Recommendation #4: This study needs to be repeated in 10 years to allow ample time after these protocols have been implemented.
... En réponse à la menace de l'exclusion, l'inaction est particulièrement néfaste pour l'individu puisqu'elle souligne un décalage entre une situation déplaisante et l'impossibilité de s'en échapper, favorisant l'apparition de désordres psychologiques sévères (Laborit, 1968 ;Maier & Seligman, 1976 (Warburton et al., 2006), ou à épicer le plat d'un camarade alors qu'il est bien indiqué qu'il n'apprécie guère les plats piquants (Chow et al., 2008 ;Van Beest & Williams, 2012). L'agression pourrait être un moyen de montrer aux sources de l'exclusion que les individus exclus méritent d'être respectés, et elle permettrait de renforcer l'estime de soi altérée après un événement menaçant pour le soi (Leary et al., 2003). ...
... Cet événement a marqué les esprits dans la mesure où la fusillade impliquait deux auteurs qui se sont mutuellement liés pour leurs agissements macabres. Cet acte prémédité a représenté une ligne de départ dans la compréhension des dynamiques groupales en réaction au phénomène d'exclusion sociale (Leary et al., 2003). Cette thèse avait comme objectif de se placer dans cette lignée de recherche. ...
Full-text available
Se sentir rejeté ou isolé d'une interaction sociale est une situation particulièrement douloureuse et se traduit par un ensemble de réponses affectives et comportementales (Eisenberger et al., 2003 ; Williams, 2007, 2009). Tout comme la douleur physique nous alerterait des dommages tissulaires potentiels, la douleur sociale nous signalerait des dangers de l'isolement et viserait à orienter les comportements (Ferris et al., 2019). Alors que des enquêtes récentes ont montré que le partage de la douleur physique en groupe favorise les liens interpersonnels (Whitehouse et al., 2017), aucune étude expérimentale n'a évalué si le partage de l'exclusion sociale en groupe pouvait renforcer l’identification au groupe et limiter l’impact de l’exclusion sur les besoins psychologiques. Dans cette thèse, nous avons mené six études afin de tester cette hypothèse. Les principaux résultats observés avec des groupes minimaux ont montré que partager l’exclusion avec un membre de l’endogroupe renforce l’identification avec l’endogroupe (Études 1, 2 et 3), la proximité sociale avec celui-ci (Étude 3) mais ne limite l’impact négatif et les réponses psychophysiologiques (Étude 4). Les études menées avec des groupes réels ont montré qu’une discrimination perçue moindre était associée à une plus grande satisfaction des besoins psychologiques (Étude 5), sans répliquer les effets de l’exclusion sur l’identification et la satisfaction des besoins fondamentaux au sein d’un protocole d’exclusion différent (Étude 6). Ces résultats semblent montrer que partager un épisode d’exclusion en groupe augmente les réponses identitaires et permettent de souligner le rôle de la discrimination perçue dans le lien entre exclusion et bien-être.
... Moreover, research has shown that, on a behavioral level, ostracized individuals are motivated to engage both in prosocial behaviors like compliance, conformity, and obedience (Carter-Sowell et al., 2008;DeWall, 2010;Riva et al., 2014) and antisocial ones (e.g., targeting others with aversive noise or allocating unpleasant hot sauce to them; Twenge et al., 2001;Warburton et al., 2006). Data suggest that chronic ostracism and other forms of exclusion may even play a role in extreme antisocial behaviors such as mass shootings (Kowalski et al., 2021;Leary et al., 2003). ...
Full-text available
In recent years, researchers of various disciplines have developed many theories to understand the radicalization process. One key factor that may promote radicalization is social exclusion, the state of being kept apart from others. Indeed, experimental studies have provided initial evidence for a relation between exclusion and radicalism. The current review outlines and builds upon these research programs, arguing that social exclusion has been shown (a) to increase the willingness to fight-and-die, (b) to promote the approval for extreme, even violent, political parties and actions, and (c) to push the willingness to engage in illegal and violent action for a political cause. We close with an agenda for future research and critically discuss implications of this work for social policy.
... Un esempio di studio dedicato a capire il ruolo della società nelle sparatorie nelle scuole è stato realizzato da Lear et al. (2013) a partire da 15 casi studio tra il 1995 e il 2001. Come risultato, gli autori identificano come precondizione importante la combinazione di forme acute o croniche di rifiuto (che l'individuo sviluppa rispetto alla comunità dei propri pari e che si manifestano, ad esempio, attraverso episodi di ostracismo, bullismo, insuccessi scolastici, sportivi o sentimentali) e alti fattori di rischio quali la passione per le armi, la morte, il satanismo o problemi psicologici come depressione e sadismo. ...
Perché qui? Le stragi di studenti nelle scuole americane di Francesca Silvia Rota. Il contributo prende le mosse dal fenomeno delle sparatorie di massa nelle scuole americane, comunemente definite dai media e dalla letteratura specialistica con il termine rampage school shootings. Il termine rampage sottolinea come si tratti di manifestazioni di violenza "cieca" e "furiosa", spesso perpetrata con un numero spropositato di armi e munizioni per causare il numero maggiore possibile di vittime. Apparentemente, la violenza è perpetrata da ragazzi "qualsiasi", in un giorno "qualsiasi", contro individui inermi scelti a caso. L'articolo si propone allora di investigare le condizioni territoriali locali in cui si compie l'atto violento, mostrando come esse giochino un ruolo anche dal punto di vista della capacità di ripresa della comunità locale dopo lo shock che segue l'aggressione.
Full-text available
Road safety issue is an urgent problem that needs to be addressed and has been a growing public health concern worldwide. Previous research has investigated the risk factors associated with dangerous driving behavior. So far, however, little research has explored the potential influence of social exclusion on dangerous driving behavior, and little is known about the mechanisms underlying this relationship. The current study aims to empirically explore how and when social exclusion impacts dangerous driving behavior based on the Multimotive Model of social exclusion, and the effects of driving anger and cognitive reappraisal. A total of 240 Chinese drivers (Mean age = 26.07, SD = 7.68) completed anonymous questionnaires regarding social exclusion, driving anger, dangerous driving behavior, and cognitive reappraisal. The findings indicated that (1) social exclusion positively predicted dangerous driving behavior; (2) driving anger fully mediated this association; (3) cognitive reappraisal respectively moderated the effect of social exclusion on dangerous driving behavior and driving anger. When cognitive reappraisal was low, social exclusion had a stronger positive effect on dangerous driving behavior. These findings highlight the significance of identifying the mechanisms underlying the effect of social exclusion on driving behavior. Certain implications can be provided for promoting drivers’ safe driving behavior and reducing the negative effect of social exclusion.
Full-text available
The experience of social exclusion has been shown to trigger aggressive, antisocial behavior. This outcome is particularly problematic if such retaliatory acts, in addition to being harmful, are also highly original and creative, and thus, difficult to anticipate and to defend against. For this reason, the present study investigated whether a laboratory social exclusion paradigm would increase malevolent creativity – creativity deliberately aimed at damaging others. In a sample of n = 81, male and female participants were either excluded or included by an alleged group of peers based on their personal preferences, and then generated as many original ideas as possible to take revenge on other wrongdoers (Malevolent Creativity Test; MCT). State affect was additionally assessed before and after exclusion/inclusion. Analyses revealed that social exclusion had significant effects on individuals’ malevolent creativity performance, with the excluded group generating a greater number of vengeful ideas in the MCT that were also rated as more original. Interestingly, greater harmfulness (malevolence) of revenge ideas was specifically observed for excluded women. While social exclusion was linked to increased anger and general negative affect, affect changes did not mediate exclusion effects on malevolent creativity. This hints at more complex mechanisms linking social exclusion and creative antisocial behavior other than immediate emotional responses. Altogether, our findings emphasize the role of situative factors for the emergence of malevolent creativity, suggesting that anybody may resort to highly malicious ideation under threatening circumstances.
We present outcomes from a field test of a student-centered and technology-driven school safety framework. We describe the framework components rooted in school violence prevention. Results from our field test indicate moderate student and teacher use of the framework components, improvements in student perceptions of school safety, reductions in student reported peer victimization, and reductions in teacher and parent reported inappropriate student behavior. Consumer satisfaction rating were adequate. We present recommendations for implementing a school safety framework emphasizing student voice.
Full-text available
Conventional wisdom has regarded low self-esteem as an important cause of violence, but the opposite view is theoretically viable. An interdisciplinary review of evidence about aggression, crime, and violence contradicted the view that low self-esteem is an important cause. Instead, violence appears to be most commonly a result of threatened egotism--that is, highly favorable views of self that are disputed by some person or circumstance. Inflated, unstable, or tentative beliefs in the self's superiority may be most prone to encountering threats and hence to causing violence. The mediating process may involve directing anger outward as a way of avoiding a downward revision of the self-concept.
Full-text available
This written statement presents the oral testimony Dr. Cornell provided at a Congressional Hearing on School Safety in May 1999 following The Columbine shooting. It explains why more emphasis is needed on prevention and describes some promising prevention strategies sch as teaching conflict resolution skills and limiting children's exposure to violent media.
Social exclusion was manipulated by telling people that they would end up alone later in life or that other participants had rejected them. These manipulations caused participants to behave more aggressively. Excluded people issued a more negative job evaluation against someone who insulted them (Experiments 1 and 2). Excluded people also blasted a target with higher levels of aversive noise both when the target had insulted them (Experiment 4) and when the target was a neutral person and no interaction had occurred (Experiment 5). However, excluded people were not more aggressive toward someone who issued praise (Experiment 3). These responses were specific to social exclusion (as opposed to other misfortunes) and were not mediated by emotion.
The recent media hype over school shootings has led to demands for methods of identifying school shooters before they act. Despite the fact that schools remain one of the safest places for youths to be, schools are beginning to adopt identification systems to determine which students could be future killers. The methods used to accomplish this not only are unproven but are inherently limited in usefulness and often do more harm than good for both the children and the school setting. The authors' goals in the present article are to place school shootings in perspective relative to other risks of violence that children face and to provide a reasonable and scientifically defensible approach to improving the safety of schools.
The US South, and western regions of the US initially settled by Southerners, are more violent than the rest of the country. Homicide rates for White Southern males are substantially higher than those for White Northern males, especially in rural areas. But only for argument-related homicides are Southern rates higher. Southerners do not endorse violence more than do Northerners when survey questions are expressed in general terms, but they are more inclined to endorse violence for protection and in response to insults. Southern Ss responded with more apparent anger to insults than did Northerners and were more likely to propose violent solutions to conflicts presented in scenarios after being insulted. The social matrix that produced this pattern may be the culture of honor characteristic of particular economic circumstances, including the herding society of the early South. Consistent with this possibility, the herding regions of the South are still the most violent. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Everyone has teased, nagged, betrayed, or lied to another person. Likewise, everyone has been the unfortunate object of such unpleasant behaviors. In this intriguing book, social psychologist Robin M. Kowalski examines the intricacies of six annoying interpersonal behaviors: complaining, teasing, breaches of propriety, worry and reassurance-seeking, lying, and betrayal. She considers the functions of these behaviors, the types of people who are inclined to do them, the consequences for victims and perpetrators, and the ways in which such behaviors might be curtailed.
Researchers have noted that embarrassment may be deliberately used to call into question another's presented identity or cause another to appear unpoised (Gross & Stone, 1964; Martin, 1987; Sharkey, 1993; Sharkey & Waldron, 1990). The present study focused on the phenomenon of intentional embarrassment as a strategy for attaining goals. Self‐report data were collected from 1136 persons ranging in age from 18 to 77. Embarrassment was found to be used as a deliberate strategy to attain various goals. Moreover, the goal attempted, as well as the tactic employed, were good predictors of success in achieving one's goal, although no interaction effect was found. Finally, embarrassors’ tactics predicted the responses of embarrassed individuals.
This study examined differences in the types of aggressive behavior among aggressive-preferred, aggressive non-preferred, non-aggressive preferred and non-aggressive non-preferred adolescents. The subjects numbered 839 14-year-old adolescents (408 girls and 431 boys). Aggressive behavior as well as social preference i.e. popularity and rejection, were assessed by peer nominations. The types of aggressive behavior measured were intriguing, arguing, fighting and bullying. The results showed that not only the level, but also the types of aggressive behavior differentiated aggressive adolescents from the non-aggressive ones, and preferred adolescents from the non-preferred ones. The aggression profile of the aggressive and rejected adolescents was characterized more by intriguing and bullying than arguing or fighting. In contrast, that of non-aggressive adolescents was dominated more by arguing and fighting than intriguing. The results pointed to a more complex relationship between aggressive behavior and social preference than the general assumption that there is a higher rate of rejection among aggressive adolescents, and a higher rate of popularity among non-aggressive ones. Significant gender differences were also found.