Semester

Spring

Date of Graduation

2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Type

MS

College

Eberly College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Psychology

Committtee Chair

William J. Fremouw

Committee Co-Chair

Karen G. Anderson

Committee Member

Amy Fiske

Abstract

Previous studies have implicated dramatic differences between military members and civilians with regard to violent behavior, including suicide, domestic violence, and harm to others, but none have examined military murder-suicide. This study compared military and civilian murder-suicide perpetrators on a number of demographic, psychological, and contextual factors. Military murder-suicide perpetrators were more likely to be older, suffer physical health disparities, be currently or formerly married, and less likely to abuse substances. They were also more likely than civilians to complete a murder-suicide due to a motive of depression, rather than one of jealousy or anger related to relationship dissolution. Logistic regression revealed that membership to the military, rather than the civilian, perpetrator group was predicted by age, reflecting the significance of a more than 15-year difference in mean age between the two groups and suggesting that many of the differences observed between the groups could be at least partially attributable to age effects. Findings from this study point to the need to tailor suicide risk assessments to include questions specific to murder-suicide and violence to others, and to add additional questions focusing on elucidating the perpetrator's attitudes toward suicide and murder-suicide. Other findings highlight the importance of assessing suicide and violence risk in older adult military populations, as they complete the majority of military murder-suicides, and of revamping existing clinical interventions to address demographical differences of military perpetrators.

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