Science about Mass Violence

The following articles have been selected by the Research and Evaluation Division at the National Mass Violence Victimization Resource Center from the overall literature on mass violence and its consequences. The articles provide valuable information on a variety of topics relating to - and affected by - mass violence. These areas include the mental health characteristics and consequences of mass violence, as well as planning for - and intervention after - a mass violence incident. New articles will be added to this page regularly, and we will routinely feature themes and specific areas of interest.

Please check back for updates and the latest scientific research in the field of mass violence, and reach out to us if you have specific questions or requests about specific topics of interest.

Effect of the incident at Columbine on students’ violence- and suicide-related behaviors

Brener, N. D., Simon, T. R., Anderson, M., Barrios, L. C., & Small, M. L. (2002). Effect of the incident and Columbine on students' violence- and suicide-related behaviors. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 22(3), 146-150.

The shootings at Columbine High School in April 1999 occurred while data was being collected for the 1999 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YBRS), which is a large survey that measures health-related behaviors that often lead to death and disability among youth and adults, including behaviors related to violence and suicide. Researchers compared data collected prior to the shootings at Columbine High School and after the shootings using logistic regression analyses. The data show an increase in feeling unsafe after the incident but show a decrease in reports considering suicide or making a suicide plan. Researchers suggest this may be an instance of “converse imitation” and that the association with the perpetrators’ dying via suicide with the homicides actually decreased the likelihood of suicidal thoughts and behaviors of youth and adolescents. They also posit that the coverage of the event including the perpetrators’ suicides decreased the willingness to report these symptoms.

Read This

Adolescent exposure to the World Trade Center attacks, PTSD symptomatology, and suicidal ideation

Chemtob, C. M., Madan, A., Berger, P., & Abramovitz, R. (2011). Adolescent exposure to the World Trade Center attacks, PTSD symptomatology, and suicidal ideation. J Trauma Stress, 24(5), 526-529. doi:10.1002/jts.20670

This study looks at the relationship between different levels of exposure to trauma, posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS), and suicidal ideation in adolescents. Researchers used logistic regression analyses to examine the relationships between the three variables and found that level of exposure to the 9/11 attacks increased risk for both suicidal ideation and PTSS. Specifically, having a family member who was hurt but not killed in the attacks increased risk for suicidal ideation, but knowing someone who was killed did not increase the risk.

Read This

Traumatic Bereavement and Terror: The Psychosocial Impact on Parents and Siblings 1.5 Years After the July 2011 Terror Killings in Norway

Dyregrov, K., Dyregrov, A., & Kristensen, P. (2015). Traumatic Bereavement and Terror: The psychosocial impact on parents and siblings 1.5 years after the July 2011 terror killings in Norway. Journal of Loss and Trauma 20(6), 556-576. doi:10.1080/15325024.2014.957603

The parents and siblings of the victims from 2011 Utoya Island killings in Norway completed a series of measures related to their loss, social support, and experiences, including 2 items on suicidal ideation from the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12). A higher percentage of siblings reported higher levels of suicidal ideation than parents, leading researchers to emphasize the importance of resources for siblings and young people after community traumas and loss.

Read This

The effects of vicarious exposure to the recent massacre at Virginia Tech

Fallahi, C. R., & Lesik, S. A. (2009). The effects of vicarious exposure to the recent massacre at Virginia Tech. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 1(3), 220-230. doi:10.1037/a0015052

Researchers studied the effects of vicarous trauma, including suicidal ideation, after the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007. Using regression analyses, the study showed that increased TV viewing of event coverage was associated with an increased probability of moderate or acute stress symptoms. Overall very few responses indicating suicidal ideation were observed, which made including this variable in some of the more sophisticated models not possible. However, chi-squared statistics showed a statistically significant difference in suicidal ideation across race and gender, and hours of TV coverage both approached significance. No differences were observed across age groups.

Read This

Prevalence and psychological correlates of complicated grief among bereaved adults 2.5–3.5 years after September 11th attacks

Neria, Y., Gross, R., Litz, B., Maguen, S., Insel, B., Seirmarco, G., . . . Marshall, R. D. (2007). Prevalence and psychological correlates of complicated grief among bereaved adults 2.5-3.5 years after September 11th attacks. J Trauma Stress, 20(3), 251-262. doi:10.1002/jts.20223

This study reviewed the relationship between complicated grief following the 9/11 attacks, levels of trauma exposure during 9/11, and other mental health symptomology and complicated grief. Using logistic regression, results showed a significant relationship between complicated grief and suicidal ideation. Researchers cite support to suggest that people with unresolved grief are a high risk from suicidal ideation and that this relationship was still observed after adjusting for comorbid depression.

Read This

The burden of full and subsyndromal posttraumatic stress disorder among police involved in the World Trade Center rescue and recovery effort

Pietrzak, R. H., Schechter, C. B., Bromet, E. J., Katz, C. L., Reissman, D. B., Ozbay, F., . . . Southwick, S. M. (2012). The burden of full and subsyndromal posttraumatic stress disorder among police involved in the World Trade Center rescue and recovery effort. J Psychiatr Res, 46(7), 835-842. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2012.03.011

Researchers assessed levels of PTSD, exposure, and other mental health symptomology in a large population of police who were involved with resuce and recovery efforts following the 9/11 attacks in New York City. The assesssments were completed four years after the attacks and included an item on the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) that assessed suicidal ideation. After adjusting for demographics and other possible comorbidity, respondents with higher levels of PTSD symptoms were more likely to report suicidal ideation.

Read This

Cross-National Analysis of the Associations between Traumatic Events and Suicidal Behavior: Findings from the WHO World Mental Health Surveys

Stein, D. J., Chiu, W. T., Hwang, I., Kessler, R. C., Sampson, N., Alonso, J., . . . De Girolamo, G. (2010). Cross-national analysis of the associations between traumatic events and suicidal behavior: findings from the WHO World Mental Health Surveys. PLoS One, 5(5), e10574.

This paper presents findings on trauma exposure and suicidal behavior from the World Health Organization mental health survey. Several analyses and models were created, looking at trauma severity, frequency, and exposure as predictors of lifetime suicidal behaviors (i.e., suicide ideation, plans, and attempts) in a cross-national sample. Although mass violence or mass shootings was not a category that was examined, the study included many predictors of interest including: man made disasters versus natural disasters and accidents, witness/perpetrator violence, and death of/trauma to loved one as types of traumatic events. The odds ratios reported in the paper show that experiencing a man made disaster was significantly related to suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. This effect was not present in a multivariate model after controlling for the effects of other traumatic events. The relationship between witnessing violence and suicidal ideation and attempts remained significant after controlling for other events.

Read This
View Archive