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Understanding and Preventing Violence: Volume 4 - Consequences and Control
The massacre murderer who simultaneously kills more than four people has been described as a person who does not fit any well-defined psychiatric class, although some rare cases involve serious mental disorders such as paranoia, in which victims are believed to be conspiring or voices are imagined to have suggested the crime. Massacre murderers usually have difficulty coping with failures in their own lives—often committing suicide after the event. They attribute their own misfortunes, including loss of jobs or marital difficulties, to other people. They tend to be white males between 30 and 40 who use a gun; they usually are well trained in use of firearms and have done recreational shooting under stress in the past. Typically they are loners with weak support systems who by themselves kill victims they know—family members or coworkers. Very few kill at random.
Serial murderers, on the other hand, kill to fulfill sexual fantasies, for fun, or to feel important. The motives are expressive and not, like the massacre murderer, instrumental. They rarely are recognized or diagnosed as having a serious mental disorder but frequently could be classified as having an antisocial or narcissistic personality by using DSM-III-R classifications. For the most part, they are methodical planners. They rarely use firearms and are most likely to commit strong-arm murders; stabbings are more common than gunshots but still are rare. The serial murderers predominantly are white males and vary in age, although the modal age is around 35. Their victims are usually strangers.
Self-Reports Collected Through Surveys of National Samples Self-reports of violent offenses based on national samples have helped confirm many findings about the classification of violent offenders based initially on small samples or criminal justice statistics. For example, a national sample of 2,146 individual family members was interviewed in person in 1976 and asked about the frequency of violent acts between various family members ranging from shoving to using a knife or firing a gun. Among these respondents, 75 percent of parents reported striking their child at least once during the child's lifetime, whereas only 3 percent could be considered repeatedly violent, reporting that they "kick, bite, or punch their child at least once each year" (Gelles and Straus, 1988:103). Surveys based on national samples of youth have also confirmed that only a small percentage of teenage boys can be classified as persistent violent offenders, and these boys are likely