Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters

In the horrific aftermath of school shootings, we all struggle to make sense of seemingly senseless acts. Despite massive media coverage, little light has been shed on school shootings. We call the perpetrators “monsters” or point our fingers at bullying or media violence. Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters goes beyond derogatory labels and simplistic explanations, providing a comprehensive psychological analysis of school shooters. Bucking the trend of looking at school shooters as a homogeneous group, Dr. Langman’s groundbreaking work demonstrates that there are three distinct categories of school shooters. His insightful exploration identifies multiple factors that converge to turn kids into killers.

Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters classifies ten school shooters within a three-part typology: psychopathic, psychotic, or traumatized. The ten shooters are Evan Ramsey, Michael Carneal, Andrew Golden, Mitchell Johnson, Andrew Wurst, Kip Kinkel, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Jeffrey Weise, and Seung Hui Cho. The book also presents five adolescents who were hospitalized and evaluated by Dr. Langman because they were at risk for committing rampage school shootings. The five potential shooters are compared to the ten actual shooters and placed within the typology. The book ends with a chapter addressing the prevention of school shootings and the early identification of potential shooters.

Why Kids Kill was named an Outstanding Academic Title of 2009 by the American Library Association.

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Read in translation:

Russian: Почему дети убивают: Что происходит в голове у школьного стрелка

German: Amok im Kopf: Warum Schüler töten

Finnish: Kouluampujat: Miksi nuori tappaa?

Dutch: Waarom jongeren moorden

Praise for Why Kids Kill

“We desperately need this book. It provides an interior view of the mind of rampage school shooters that helps us understand the origins of the narcissism, paranoia, sadism, and thwarted rage that appears to motivate them. Through the learned hands of Peter Langman, we come to understand the differences between shooters who are psychopaths and those who are schizophrenics, and why these distinctions matter. A dispassionate, but clinically powerful analysis, Why Kids Kill, will be of great interest to teachers, parents, school administrators, and law enforcement officials who are responsible for prevention and treatment.”

Katherine S. Newman, senior author of Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings and Forbes ’41 Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University

“A vital, phenomenal, extremely valuable work … Essential.”

D.E. Kelly, Adelphi University

“A readable and fascinating account … I hope that many educators and psychologists will read this excellent book.”

Scott Poland, Ed.D., Director of the Suicide and Violence Prevention Office at Nova Southeastern University

“The result of his decade-long inquiry … plumbs the interior lives of 10 notorious school shooters — including Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho — to draw conclusions about what set them off.”

Michael Rubinkam, The New York Times

“A thorough analysis of recent school shootings and a helpful prescription for prevention geared to readers outside the psychiatric profession.”

Library Journal

“Dr. Langman … clearly identifies the enormity of the feelings of isolation and meaninglessness that plagued these children. He shows what we can do to make schools safe and homes friendly and child-focused.”

— Stuart Twemlow, MD, Senior Psychiatrist at the Menninger Clinic and former adviser to the White House Commission on School Violence

“A highly readable, engaging text … A helpful book for those whose careers involve the difficult task of assessing potentially violent youth and for those who counsel, teach, and parent these same youth. The author’s extensive review of law enforcement records, clinical insight from his own professional work, and ability to clearly organize all of the information have resulted in a well-written book that is long overdue.”

Dr. Brandon Robbins, Contemporary Psychology: APA Review of Books

Why Kids Kill should be required reading for school counselors and administrators … This work is a seminal contribution to child as well as adolescent psychology.”

Counseling Today, American Counseling Association

Why Kids Kill is a breakthrough analysis of the psychological causes of school shootings … a major contribution to the field of child psychology and a look into how unprocessed human pain can end in tragedy.”

— Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

“Dr. Langman’s professional expertise and exhaustive research combine to produce a remarkably comprehensive psychological analysis of school shooters that will revolutionize our understanding of this phenomenon. This book provides an in-depth psychological analysis of school shooters that easily can be understood by non-professionals. The outstanding balance between psychological insight and plain language makes this book invaluable to anyone who works with children.”

Mary Ann Swiatek, Ph.D., licensed psychologist, member of the Association for Psychological Science