The media frequently claims that mass shooters are or were bullied as children. Does the scientific evidence back up this claim? Evidence that is reported in articles about this issue in major media outlets seems inconsistent. Scientific litterature also seems inconclusive.

Articles claiming there is a link

Huffington Post: Mass Murders in Schools and Bullying: What We Can Do to Help Stop the Carnage

CNN: Rejection, bullying are risk factors among shooters

The autogenic (self-generated) massacre

Skytherapist: Understanding Mass Violence: Could Bullying Play a Role?

Inquirer: Many campus shootings have similarities. Studying them might prevent more tragedy, researchers say (limited to campus shootings)

Articles claiming no link

Statistics on Bullying and School Shootings (limited to school shootings rather than general mass shootings)

Newsweek: How we talk about bullying after school shootings can be dangerous (again, limited to school shootings)

Vox: Think school shooters are usually bullied and unpopular? You're wrong

Parenting Pod: What Causes School Shootings and How to Stop Them

  • $\begingroup$ Might be a better fit on Skeptics.SE now that you've added support for the competing claims, though that doesn't make it off-topic here. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Aug 15 at 16:08

Mm, I had a quick look at some of the scientific literature. Personally, I believe that it is likely that school shooters were often bullied. The article by Daniel P. Mears, Melissa M. Moon & Angela J. titled Columbine Revisited: Myths and Realities About the Bullying–School Shootings Connection., says that the majority of school shooters were bullied. Allison Paolini's article claims that 87% of the school shooters were bullied (she refers to the Safe Schools Initiative Report). Overall it appears that school shooters tended to be bullied. In wider context quite a number of poeple who show aggressive behavior/criminality tended to have been bullied (36 to 55%), see this article. However, it would be foolish to claim that bullying causes school shootings. The research is correlational and therefore a causal link cannot be proven.

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  • $\begingroup$ Might want to recheck your references. In the third linked article, 36% of bullies were convicted of 3 crimes and 55% of bullies were convicted of a crime during the study period."Aim: To examine whether being a bully at school predicts later criminality." $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Aug 15 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ In your first article, Mears et al, the authors write: "...these groups have all-too-frequently accepted as true the notion that bullying causes school shootings and that efforts to reduce bullying thus will prevent these tragic events. There simply is little credible social scientific basis for this account. Bullying is not clearly a cause of school shootings, and so efforts to target bullying will not likely prevent them." which seems to argue against the statement you extracted from the article. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Aug 15 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ The only "majority" mentioned in Mears et al is "if we focus on all people who have been bullied, the overwhelming majority—indeed 99 percent or more (given that school shootings are rare)—will not go on to become school shooters" $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Aug 15 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ From Paolini's article: "The Safe Schools Initiative Report also suggested that 71% of the attackers were victims of bullying" (you said 87%; the article also mentions a 87% number but it is unclear where it comes from). $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Aug 15 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ Given that zero of the evidence you present seems accurate, I have to downvote, though I think your final two sentences are correct. Although uncited answers are a problem, I think it's much worse to cite things that are so blatantly inaccurate. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Aug 15 at 19:56

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