A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

New research brief comparing lone-actor violent offenders

In a new research brief, START investigators summarize their findings from a study on lone-actor violent offenders.  By examining two similar types of violent offenders -- assassins and school-attackers – their research aims to improve understanding of lone-actor terrorists. These types of lone actors resemble lone-offender terrorists in that they plan and perpetrate violence, the great majority act alone, and most act out of some perceived grievance rather than for material self-interest. 

The research team identified personal and background characteristics of assassins and school attackers:

  • Both assassins and school attackers were predominantly white males, and both groups of offenders were predominantly lone-actors (81% and 70%).
  • Both showed high rates of mental health problems. Nearly half of assassins (44%) and more than half of school attackers (78%) had histories of depression, despair, or suicidal ideation.
  • Otherwise, demographics of the two groups varied significantly. Assassins differed from school attackers in education, marriage, service in the military and history of substance abuse and arrest. Assassins (16-73 yrs.) also tended to be older than school attackers (11-21 yrs.).

The new research brief, “Characteristics of Violent Lone-Offenders: a Comparison of Assassins and School Attackers” can be downloaded from the START website.

It is drawn from an article of the same name, “Characteristics of Lone-Wolf Violent Offenders: a Comparison of Assassins and School Attackers,” published by Perspectives on Terrorism: at http://www.terrorismanalysts.com/pt/index.php/pot/article/view/240.

This research was supported by the Office of University Programs of the Science and Technology Directorate of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.


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