Updated on February 28, 2018. This article has been updated to clarify descriptions of the scholar Judy Chu’s work.
In the aftermath of a school shooting, one question always stands out: Why did he—it’s almost always a he—do it? Such an event, and its male perpetrator, draws attention to an awful truth lurking behind the “crazy” outburst: Male violence isn’t a one-off, anomalous occurrence, but one more event in a steady drone of violence in homes, schools, and neighborhoods.
In 2014, the University of Alabama criminologist Adam Lankford examined a database of mass killings that occurred from 2006 to 2012. Of the 308 killers, 94 percent were male. Separately, Mother Jones compiled a list from 1982 to today; they found that of 93 shooters in 2014, 97 percent were male. In other violence categories, boys have a higher rate of assault than girls and a suffer higher rate of injury from assault. They are also more likely to report being in a fight in the past year and far more likely to be a homicide victim. In fact, homicide has become the leading cause of death for young African American males.
Another display of male violence recently received public attention. One week before the massacre in Parkland, Florida, photos of a woman with a black eye—allegedly the result of abuse by her then-husband, a senior White House staffer who’s since resigned—were circulated on social media and in news outlets. As with mass shootings, violence directed toward an intimate partner is more commonly perpetrated by males. The bottom line is that interpersonal violence of all kinds is largely a male phenomenon. Whether it is physical bullying, fighting, or more severe forms of violence, boys account for a disproportionate amount of both perpetrators and victims.