Everyone wants to matter: Insights into school shootings

Bernice Pescosolido, a highly regarded medical sociologist at Indiana University Bloomington, talks in this TEDxBloomington presentation about some surprising discoveries regarding the lives of some teens who committed murder during school rampages.

Far from being loners — at least by choice — they might have wanted to belong too much, but lived in communities that lacked multiple paths (schools, clubs) through which residents could feel like they belonged.

“The boys [according to a National Academy of Sciences report] were boys who had perceptions of themselves as extremely marginal,” Pescosolido said during her presentation. “That’s important. There are two words there that are important: ‘perception’ and ‘marginal.’ Because these weren’t boys who were loners. These were boys who tried over and over and over again to belong — to belong to groups in their high school, to below to groups in college, to belong to their family in a closer way — but they experienced they were constantly rebuffed.”

The rampages have occurred not in major cities, but in smaller, close-knit communities. Pescosolido discussed the need for community safety nets to help the more vulnerable residents if they experience hardship.

“The fundamental idea is to think about communities within communities. Community is not one thing. Communities need to have many pathways to mattering.”

Pescosolido has been researching issues related to mental health and stigma for 30 years. A recent blog post talks a little bit about her work with actress Glenn Close to reduce the stigma experienced in the U.S. and abroad.

Pescosolido is Distinguished Professor and Chancellor’s Professor of Sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington. She also is director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research.


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