Do Mass Shooters Come from Single Parent Homes?

Warnings: disturbing subject matter, language. Reader discretion is advised.

After seeing many people attribute mass shootings to single parents (specifically, single mothers), including several prominent Republican politicians like Mitt Romney, and after seeing an article titled “What Do ALL the Mass Shooters Have in Common? No Father in the Home,” which is quite a claim, I’ve decided to do some research on this subject myself and see if this is actually true.

I will be looking at the mass murderers who have committed school massacres, because I don’t have the mental strength to do research on every single white mass murderer in recent history. I consider school massacres to be the most fucked up type of mass murder, so my hope is this category will be the most indicative of a pattern of harm, if there is one. I will be looking at every single school massacre that has been committed by a man of European descent (they are all men). I will also be looking at every single case worldwide, not just those from the US, because if this is an actual phenomenon that affects men of European descent it shouldn’t matter whether the single parent household is in Germany or America.

I have done my best to do good research on all of these men and provide accurate information, but if someone has information I am lacking, please leave a comment and a link to the source.

Name, age, country, weapon(s), year of massacre

Parents married

  1. Pekka-Eric Auvinen, 18, Finland, firearm and arson, 2007
  2. Anthony Barbaro, 17, U.S., firearm and explosives, 1974
  3. Branimir Donchev, 17, Bulgaria, firearm and knife, 1974. Mother died when he was 14.
  4. Farda Gadirov, 28, Azerbaijan, firearm, 2009
  5. Kim De Gelder, 20, Belgium, knives, 2009
  6. Andrew Golden, 11, U.S., firearm, 1998
  7. Eric David Harris, 18, U.S., firearm and explosives, 1999
  8. Steven Kazmierczak, 27, U.S., firearm, 2008
  9. Andrew Kehoe, 55, U.S., firearm, knife, and explosives, 1927
  10. Kipland Kinkel, 15, U.S., firearm, 1998
  11. Dylan Bennet Klebold, 17, U.S., firearm and explosives, 1999 (1/4 Jewish)
  12. Tim Kretschmer, 17, Germany, firearm, 2009
  13. Charles Carl Roberts IV, 32, U.S., firearm, 2006
  14. Heinz Schmidt, 29, Germany, firearm, 1913
  15. Willi Walter Seifert, 42, West Germany, flamethrower, lance, and bludgeoning mace, 1964
  16. Michael Slobodian, 16, Canada, firearm, 1975
  17. Robert Steinhauser, 19, Germany, firearm, 2002
  18. Charles Joseph Whitman, 25, U.S., firearm and knives, 1966

Parents divorced

  1. Thomas Watt Hamilton, 43, U.K. (Scotland), firearm, 1996. Parents divorced when he was young; raised by his grandparents, who he thought were his parents.
  2. Adam Lanza, 20, U.S., firearm, 2012 (possibly Jewish)
  3. Mitchell Scott Johnson, 13, U.S., firearm, 1998. Mother remarried soon after the divorce.
  4. Patrick Purdy, 24, U.S., firearm and arson, 1989. Parents divorced when he was 2, had a stepfather from ages 5-9. Raised by his father during his adolescence.
  5. Matti Saari, 22, Finland, firearm and arson, 2008. At least one parent remarried, as he has three younger half-siblings and two step-siblings.
  6. Charles Andrew Williams, 15, U.S., firearm, 2001. Parents divorced when he was 14, raised by father after that.

Unwed mother

  • None.

Information lacking

  1. Karel Charva, 34, West Germany (Charva was Czechoslovakian), firearm, 1983
  2. Thaddäus Domanski (Ormanski), 13, Poland, firearm and explosives, 1925
  3. Anatoly Fedorenko, age unknown, ~19, Russia, firearm, 1977
  4. Eric Christopher Houston, 20, U.S., firearm, 1992
  5. Robert Kausler, 27, West Germany, firearm and arson, 1972
  6. Stanislaw Lawrynowicz, 13, Poland, firearm and explosives, 1925
  7. Sergei Lepnev, 18, Russia, firearm, 1997
  8. Janusz Obrapalski, 13, Poland, firearm and explosives, 1925

Divorce rates have been around 50% since 1975, so we should expect half of the rampage killers from the mid-seventies onwards to come from divorced families. In fact, 6 out of the 20 murderers from this time frame have come from divorced families.

40% of the children born in the U.S. in 2007 were born to unmarried mothers. In some European countries it is even higher – 66% of Icelandic children were born out of wedlock in the same year, for example. In 1980, 18% of children in the U.S. were born to unmarried mothers, and again in some European countries it was significantly higher – 40% in Iceland and Sweden, for example. So we should expect perhaps a quarter to a third of mass murderers from the past 40 years to come from an unmarried mother, and yet, as far as school massacres go, there are exactly zero.

So, what rough ratios of married, divorced, and unmarried families should we be expecting, if the mass murderers of the past 45 years or so have families that approximate the same ratios as the general population?
Married: 37%
Divorced: 37%
Unmarried: 25%

What are the actual ratios of married, divorced, and unmarried families that school mass murderers of European descent have come from in the past 45 years?
Married: 70%
Divorced: 30%
Unmarried: 0%

So, the verdict is: No, I do not see a pattern of rampage killers of European descent coming from single parent households. In fact, the data actually skews strongly in favor of rampage killers being disproportionately likely to come from married parents. White school mass murderers are almost twice as likely to come from married parents as they statistically should be. Perhaps this should be used as an argument against marriage and in favor of single motherhood for Europeans. In fact, a male presence in the household seems to be a near universal in all of these cases – even in cases of divorce, the mother remarried soon after, the boy was raised by his father, etc.

(I am not actually suggesting that it is marriage or a male presence in the household that produces rampage killers. It is a sarcastic response to the Republicans and other misogynists who say single mothers produce rampage killers. I think the actual causes are much more complex and deep-seated.)

I did notice some other patterns that seemed both consistent and noteworthy:

  1. They were all men. Every. Single. One.
  2. The vast majority had a history of mental illness.
  3. It seemed the significant majority (of those on whom there was any information) had been on psychiatric drugs. Not surprising that that would be uncommonly likely, since obviously mass murderers are uncommonly likely to be mentally ill, but the emergence of psychiatric drugs is certainly a development of the past 100 years, which is when these rampage killings have been occurring. I also noticed that a number of the men, before their rampage, had reported various types of negative reactions to the drugs. I think this is definitely an issue that should be looked into more, but I don’t know if I have the mettle for it.
  4. It was almost universal that the men were described as shy, introverted, reserved, a loner, or somesuch.

If anyone does do research on the possibility of psychoactive drugs triggering violent rampages, I think a good starting point would be to look for some sort of negative effect from psychoactive drugs that has been found to only and exclusively affect men. It might also be a very small percentage of men who report such a side effect. I think antidepressants would be a prime suspect, as I saw those mentioned more than anything. Antipsychotics and ADHD drugs also cropped up a number of times.

If anyone already knows of research concerning a possible link between any psychoactive drug and rampage killings, please reference it to me in the comments. It would be a relief to know someone was already doing significant research on this subject.

Other things I saw quite often:

  1. I noticed a significant pattern of pedophilia and child molestation. As this could be why many of these men chose schools as their target, I would be hesitant to generalize that to all mass murderers without further research. Many others seemed to be retaliating for rejection, either by the school itself or by a former girlfriend.
  2. Family was religious.
  3. Family owned guns and often were gun enthusiasts.
  4. The murderer had a notable interest in guns.
  5. The murderer had expressed violent fantasies to confidantes. When this occurs, it should not be taken lightly, as it might be the strongest warning sign anyone is going to get.
  6. Don’t know what this could indicate, but I noticed a very long, thin facial type was common. Many of these men looked like a weed that had grown without sunlight.

It’s also possible that there is no consistent cause that can be ferreted out here. It’s possible some men are just a violent sort of crazy, in a way that doesn’t happen to women – the significant majority of these men had had mental health issues for many years prior to the attack, and it’s possible that mental illness just manifests very violently in a small minority of men. I’m not by any means saying this is definitely the case, and there is no determinable cause – I really have no idea what causes mass murders.

Practically speaking, I think the most important thing we can do as a society is to be prepared to stop such rampagers as quickly and effectively as possible when things like this happen. That means everyone carrying protection and knowing how to use it, and being especially cautious when in a large group setting. Having the women in the family have exclusive control over any guns in the household wouldn’t be a bad idea either, as women don’t do things like this, and very, very many of these men’s families didn’t expect a thing until it happened, and it seemed the vast majority used household guns.

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