Adolescent Perpetrated Intentional School Shootings: Discovering the Characteristics that Influence Media Exposure
Petrie, Eve S.
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Although gun violence in schools is rare, the severity and frequency of these crimes has been increasing in the last few years. As waves of these violent shootings shake the United States, news outlets bombard the population with horrifying details, spreading fear across the nation. School shootings – and the relentless media coverage that follows – bear unforgiving consequences on the well-being of the survivors and the surrounding communities, governments, and institutions. Nonetheless, school shootings remain seriously understudied. Contributing to the gaps in literature, the present study investigated the incident characteristics and perpetrator attributes that influence and increase the amount of media exposure adolescent perpetrated intentional school shootings receive. The number of documents published in the media about a particular shooting was used as a direct measurement of the shooting’s level of media exposure. Data for this study drew from The American School Shooting Study (TASSS) database. Using distortion analysis, researchers identified 253 intentional (i.e., non-accidental) school shootings committed by offenders under the age of 19 that occurred in the United States on K-12 school grounds between the years 1990 – 2016 and resulted in at least one casualty. Correlational tests, one-way analyses of variance (ANOVAs), and multivariate analyses of linear regression found that the age of the perpetrator, the perpetrator’s psychological health, and the total number of victims, had the strongest impact on the number of media documents published. The perpetrator’s affiliation to the attacked school, the type of school attacked, and whether the shooting took place inside the school building also significantly affected amount of news coverage. The methodological limitations of this study and suggestions for future research are briefly discussed.