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Mass Murderers: Why Do They Kill?

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., Dec. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Maurice Clemmons' fatal shooting of four Washington state police officers once again put the spotlight on mass murder in the United States. Coming on the heels of the November killings at Fort Hood, the Washington case raised questions about the factors that motivate men to go on a shooting rampage.

Andrew Smiler, an assistant professor of psychology at Wake Forest University, says his research on masculinity provides some insight into the motivations that drive the shootings. "There has been little discussion about the masculinity behind the murders, which are generally attributed to stressors like work conflict, debt, unemployment, or marital discord," Smiler says.

"When men lose their jobs, go deep into debt, are rejected by their wives, feel underappreciated or bullied by coworkers, or lose connection with their children, masculinity tells them they have two options. The un-masculine reaction is to passively accept the situation," Smiler adds. "The masculine reaction is to do something about it, and for some men, that means performing the kind of violence that we see in movies and television programs where the male hero regains his status through violent vengeance against the people who caused the problem and 'deserve it.'"

One possible remedy would be to define masculinity in healthier ways by teaching men and boys the skills to manage their feelings without hurting other people. Says Smiler: "These men killed because they understood that masculinity accepts and justifies violence. To a greater or lesser extent, we all participate in this cultural definition even though the vast majority of us are not violent, and we all have the potential to resist it. But it is very difficult to resist a pressure that one cannot name, and when we attribute family mass murder and other men's violence solely to the individual, as if gender were not part of the equation, we avoid naming it."

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SOURCE Wake Forest University

SOURCE Wake Forest University
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