Trouble with the Other: The Role of Romantic Rejection in Rampage School Shootings by Adolescent Males

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Violence and Gender

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This research considers the role of romantic rejections in rampage school shootings by adolescent males. Examined were the arguments that these young shooters understand such rejections as one of many undeserved humiliations that have damaged their gender credibility and thus their school social status; and that the norms of a traditional masculinity insisting on the repudiation of feminine emotionality constrain them from expressing sadness or vulnerability over the rejection. Fifteen of the 29 adolescent shooters in the study sample had experienced romantic rejection in the period leading up to their rampage. Overall, their reactions to such rejection affirmed the above arguments. The rejected shooters reacted with growing anger to what they perceived as these gendered injustices; at the same time, they typically suppressed any public display of feminine emotionality in response to the hurtful experience of rejection. While they commonly threatened and derided their rejecter(s), with the exception of one case, they reserved their physical violence, including shooting, for male peers whom they thought were a factor in their breakup or who had emasculated them through bullying. Suggestions for intervention and prevention based on the study findings are offered.


Copyright 2019, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers



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