9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN22 Sociology of Risk and Uncertainty

2009-09-05 09:00:00 2009-09-05 10:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 09:00 - 10:30 Trust Building I, 2E2

Mass violence and social insecurity: the case of school shootings in Finland

In the light of homicide and suicide statistics, Finland is one of the most violent countries in Western Europe. Also the recent dramatic incidents, particularly the bomb explosion in a shopping centre in Vantaa (2002) and the high school shooting at Jokela (2007) and Kauhajoki (2008), received worldwide media coverage about violence in Finnish society. Simultaneously, however, Finland scores high in many international surveys on generalised trust and social capital.

Our Everyday life and Insecurity project (2008-2011) analyses social relations and management of risks after school shootings in Finland. We have collected comparable survey data from Jokela and Kauhajoki. Both of the data represent the local residents aged 18-75. In the paper, we discuss how the engagement with neighborhood activities connects with the perceptions of social risks and the feelings of insecurity. We examine how people make use of their social bonds after violent disasters and what kind of coping strategies they use. In other words, we ask how community cohesion was affected by a violent incident, and what social relationships people predominately use in order to maintain their psychological well-being after such an incident.

We assume that interpersonal trust is associated with the fears people have. For example, mass violence incidents are typically portrayed as random and unexpected acts. This is why they provide with a stressful risk for citizens. Moreover, we have witnessed the trend that one act tends to increase the likelihood of future acts. In the aftermath of Jokela and Kauhajoki shootings, for example, hundreds of pupils in Finland and other European countries tried to attract public attention by making false threats and leaving messages on Internet bulletin boards.

In the analysis, interpersonal trust and community cohesion are seen as positive resources aimed at social well-being in the community level. Our results indicate that a high level of interpersonal trust and community cohesion is connected with a low level of psychological insecurity. In addition, we find that the previous experiences of violence relate to residents' capacity to cope with social risks. Socio-demographic background is also associated both with the risk-coping capabilities and the feelings of insecurity.