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When terrorists target schools: An exploratory analysis of attacks on educational institutions


Terrorist attacks on educational institutions have taken many forms: armed assaults, bombings, hostage takings, chemical attacks, and arson. This paper focuses on armed assaults. The frequency of this type of attack on educational institutions has increased sharply since 2003, with the incident rate in 2007 being double that of the previous year. A comprehensive chronology of all armed assaults on educational institutions since 1980 (N = 146) was created with reference to the Global Terrorism Database, and other credible sources. Descriptive reports of each incident were subjected to content analysis according to a series of 16 variables. These variables describe various aspects of the incident including information about who the victim(s) were, where and when the attack took place, and who the offender(s) were. The data set was analysed using traditional inferential statistics illustrating that armed terrorist attacks on educational institutions have increased in lethality, but changed in terms of the main targets. The data were also analysed using Multidimensional Scalogram Analysis (MSA) to explore inter-relationships between behaviors and identify the underlying dimensions in terrorist attacks on educational institutions. The analysis demonstrates that attacks can be classified on an expressive-instrumental continuum and the implications are discussed.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Bradford, Emma, and Margaret A. Wilson. 2013. "When terrorists target schools: An exploratory analysis of attacks on educational institutions." Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology (June): 1-12. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11896-013-9128-8

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