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Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters Paperback – August 3, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A very strong resource for school counselors and parents. The author meets his task of truly getting into the minds of school shooters.” ―BNET

“Langman offers a paradigm of three specific categories of youth offenders--psychopathic, psychotic, or traumatized. . . Langman fully discusses long-term exposure to violence, genetic predisposition to violence, recurrent alienation from mainstream society, depression, narcissism, and lack of empathy, as well as improperly challenged and constrained rage in the context of these three categories . . . He also looks at cases of youth who are not as notorious and whose intent to kill others was thwarted, and ends with lessons that can be learned from these and other cases. In addition, Langman presents research that informs current practice with disconnected, enraged youth. Langman believes that school shootings can be prevented, and his analysis offers reflections on how prevention can occur. A vital, phenomenal, extremely valuable work. Summing up: Essential. all levels / libraries.” ―D.E. Kelly, Adelphi University, CHOICE (Sept. 2009)

“Peter Langman's book Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters is a highly readable, engaging text that analyzes 10 school shooters, outlines a typology that classifies school shooters into three distinct categories, uses the author's personal experience in assessing potential school shooters, and outlines practical lessons from foiled and actual attacks…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.” ―Brandon Robbins, Contemporary Psychology: APA Review of Books

“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

“Mr. Langman, who is the clinical director of KidsPeace, an Orefield, Pa.-based charity that provides mental-health services for children and teenagers in 11 states, draws 10 lessons for parents and educators from his studies of school shootings across the United States.” ―Debra Viadero, Education Week

“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 and member of the Association for Psychological Science

“Dr. Langman …clearly identifies the enormity of the feelings of isolation and meaninglessness that plagued these children. Shows what we can do to make schools safe and homes friendly and child focused. Perhaps his greatest contribution is to point out that hyper reactive child exist in a social context that if it is not empathic and helpful can perhaps trigger the calamites he describes.” ―Stuart Twemblow, author of Why School Anti Bullying Programs Don't Work

“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 pyschopaths 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 is the senior author of Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings and the Forbes '41 Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University

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

About the Author

Peter Langman is the Clinical Director of psychology at KidsPeace (www.kidspeace.org), an organization that helps kids overcome emotional crises. Winner of the Pennsylvania Psychological Association's 2008 Psychology in the Media Award, he has over 20 years of experience treating at-risk youth, specializing in kids with homicidal tendencies. He has appeared on CBS, BBC, and CBC. He is the author of a number of works on mental health. Please visit www.schoolshooters.info.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1 edition (August 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230101488
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230101487
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #397,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Peter Langman, Ph.D., is a psychologist whose work on school shooters has gained international recognition. His book, "Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters," was named an Outstanding Academic Title by the American Library Association and was translated into German, Dutch, and Finnish. Dr. Langman's research has been cited in congressional testimony on Capitol Hill. He has been interviewed over 200 times, including by The New York Times, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, the BBC, The Today Show, NPR, and other news outlets in the USA, Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Middle East. After the Sandy Hook attack, his recommendations on school safety were presented by the CEO of the American Psychological Association to President Obama. Dr. Langman has trained thousands of professionals in education, mental health, and law enforcement on identifying potential school shooters. He maintains www.schoolshooters.info, the largest online database on school shooters.

His new book, "School Shooters: Understanding High School, College, and Adult Perpetrators," continues the research he presented in "Why Kids Kill" but expands the sample of shooters from 10 to 48. This increased scope allows for a much more detailed analysis of the minds and life circumstances of the shooters.

Dr. Langman's first book, "Jewish Issues in Multiculturalism," explores Jewish identity, the psychology of anti-Semitism, Jewish-Christian issues, and many other topics. This volume was hailed as "a landmark contribution" to multicultural studies.

In addition to being a psychologist, Dr. Langman is a poet and playwright. His plays are dramas about a wide range of subjects, with scripts about eating disorders among college women, Native American history, Martin Luther King, British Romantic poets, Scottish folktales, Jewish/Holocaust issues, and more. Details about his plays can be found at www.peterlangman.com.

His volume of poetry, "The Last Days of John Keats and Other Poems," contains poems in the voices of several British Romantic poets and other historical figures, as well as poems based on Scottish folklore and English history. There are also sonnets and lyrics focused on nature, spirituality, and human relationships.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have read Dr. Langman's book with great interest. What he does is take 10 cases -- those with the greatest media coverage -- and attempt to classify the school rampage shooters using categories of psychological dysfunction. To this end he develops three major types: psychopathic, psychotic, and traumatized shooters. To begin with, Dr. Langman begins with one major, seemingly reasonable, assumption: school rampage shooters are psychologically troubled. Well, yes. This is hardly news breaking information. However, as Dr. Langman notes, there is no straight line from psychopathology, psychosis, or psychological traumatization to school shootings, which are extremely rare occurrences. Therefore, Dr. Langman has the same problem as all psychological profilers: false positives. There are hundreds of thousands of American adolescents that fit into Dr. Langman's categories who are not violent in the least way. Therefore, the explanatory power of his paradigm is nil.
As with all typologies, there are border problems. Dr. Langman's typology leaks. His problem is Dylan Klebold. Dylan, an obviously depressed teenager who has problems related to his sexuality and religious/ethnic identities fits none of those categories. Therefore, Dr. Langman defines him as borderline psychotic with the schizotypal label. A person with less investment in identifying school shooters as psychotic or severely abused might identify Dylan Klebold as a teenager dealing with normal problems of self-esteem, sexuality, identity, and social location. Dylan was shy, not sure how to deal with the female gender, felt unattractive, had a Jewish background he tried to hide, was not well regarded by his peers, was not terribly athletic in a hypermasculine environment, and was a member of an outcast adolescent subculture.
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To say I liked this book would be misleading. I hated every word of this book, but I could not stop reading it. I read it all in one sitting, forgoing any attempt at sleeping, until I reached the end. After reading this book, I see that these ten shooters were actually people, which possibly makes the entire matter more disturbing. Somehow, by the end of the section on Klebold, I was feeling equal parts horror and pity. I even managed to muster up some pity for Harris. Some part of me realized that some of these boys were feeling this very similar to things I felt in high school, that probably everybody felt In high school. The difference is, these boys chose the most extreme thing they could.
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Dr. Langman's book is a very readable look at the psychology of school shootings. It neatly held my attention while providing a greater depth of understanding to a difficult topic. The greatest limitation of the text stems from the author's field of study. There is no thoughtful consideration paid to the sociological conditions that produce school shootings- the interactions in classrooms, with peers, and in the home. Of course, that is largely expected. A psychologist will be primarily concerned with psychology, which tends toward individualistic explanations. Overall, this book is a useful addition to the the available resources on school shootings, but cannot stand alone as the definitive text.
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Format: Hardcover
I thought this was a fascinating book that is easy to read. It gives a window into the psychology of a school shooter that the media never delves into when these tragedies occur. I found that I learned something on every page. I can understand the parents of these tragedies wanting full and complete answers, and even though this book doesn't satisfy all those answers and may conflict with some core hypotheses, I think the book has tremendous value to help us detect and hopefully curtail any potential killers.
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Format: Hardcover
Dr. Langman's clear and logical analysis of the minds of school shooters peels off layer after layer of information about these young men until he exposes the complex psychological torture with which they lived. He meticulously analyses the lives of almost a dozen school shooters. We learn that the shooters were all severely mentally ill, and not just the products of bullying or peer isolation - which were just the tip of the iceberg. We learn in depth how these young people fit into different categories of mental illness and their common symptoms. The advice that Dr. Langman gives us all on identifying symptoms of dysfunction in our young people is invaluable. His book does not just pertain to the Columbine tragedy; it delves into the minds of the school shooters up until the present time. [...]
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Format: Hardcover
I have just completed reading "Why Kids Kill" by Dr. Peter Langman and feel that this book should be read by all thinking people. It is an intelligent, well reasoned book on an extremely important subject which should be read by all school faculty and school psychologists and parents. If we can better understand our children and recognize aberrant behavior we can hopefully prevent these horrible events from devestating our children again.
What happend in Columbine and elsewhere must and can be prevented. This book is a MUST READ by all!

Bill Hirschman,
Ardsley, NY
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Format: Hardcover
Dr. Langman has put his experience in psychology to good use in this thoughtful analysis of 10 students who committed rampage school shootings. The book and his analysis profit from the inclusion of lesser-known incidents in addition to those, like Columbine, that have received frequent and widespread media coverage. His careful, painstaking research into verifiable details of the events helps to dispel myths that have misled people for years. Further, he contributes a "typology" of school shooters that fits the data he has collected and explains the common finding that there is no single "profile" of a school shooter. Perhaps the most useful information in the book for schools is his well-reasoned consideration of ways to improve safety--that metal detectors and identification badges are unlikely to stop rampage school shootings, but that good communication and attention to students can address problems before they become tragedies. This book has much to offer parents, teachers, school administrators, and anyone else who works with or cares about school students.
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