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Lester Et Al 2004 Bombers

Lester Et Al 2004 Bombers

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This article was downloaded by:[EBSCOHost EJS Content Distribution]On:8 March 2008Access Details:[subscription number 768320842]Publisher:Taylor & FrancisInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism
Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~content=t713742821
Suicide Bombers: Are Psychological Profiles Possible?
David Lester
a
;Bijou Yang
b
; Mark Lindsay
ca
Center for the Study of Suicide, Blackwood, New Jersey, USA.
b
Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
c
Baltimore, Maryland, USA.Online Publication Date:01 July 2004To cite this Article:Lester, David,Yang, Bijou and Lindsay, Mark (2004) 'SuicideBombers: Are Psychological Profiles Possible?', Studies in Conflict & Terrorism,27:4, 283 - 295To link to this article: DOI:10.1080/10576100490461033URL:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10576100490461033PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLEFull terms and conditions of use:http://www.informaworld.com/terms-and-conditions-of-access.pdfThisarticlemaybeusedforresearch,teachingandprivatestudypurposes.Anysubstantialorsystematicreproduction,re-distribution,re-selling,loanorsub-licensing,systematicsupplyordistributioninanyformtoanyoneisexpresslyforbidden.Thepublisherdoesnotgiveanywarrantyexpressorimpliedormakeanyrepresentationthatthecontentswillbecompleteoraccurateoruptodate.Theaccuracyofanyinstructions,formulaeanddrugdosesshouldbeindependentlyverifiedwithprimarysources.Thepublishershallnotbeliableforanyloss,actions,claims,proceedings,demandorcostsordamageswhatsoeverorhowsoevercausedarisingdirectlyorindirectlyinconnectionwithorarising out of the use of this material.
 
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283
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism,
27:283–295, 2004Copyright
Taylor & Francis Inc.ISSN: 1057-610X print / 1521-0731 onlineDOI:10.1080/10576100490461033
Suicide Bombers:Are Psychological Profiles Possible?
DAVID LESTER
Center for the Study of SuicideBlackwood, New Jersey, USA
BIJOU YANG
Drexel UniversityPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
MARK LINDSAY
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
 Research on the characteristics of suicide bombers is reviewed. Contrary to previ-ous commentary, it is suggested that suicide bombers may share personality traits(such as the “authoritarian personality”) that psychological profiles of suicide bombersmight be feasible, and that the suicide bombers may be characterized by the risk  factors that increase the probability of suicide.
Two assertions are common in essays on suicide bombers. The first is that suicide bombersdo not appear to be characterized by the risk factors that predict suicidal behavior (e.g.,Israeli, 1997). The second is that psychological profiles of suicide bombers are not pos-sible (Merari, 1990). This essay will argue that both assertions are certainly prematureand probably incorrect.Both of these tasks (identifying suicide risk factors and constructing psychologicalprofiles) require extensive biographies of the individuals involved. To take an analogoussituation, profilers of serial killers usually have detailed biographies available for analy-sis, such as that of Dennis Nilsen who murdered 15 people in England before he wascaptured in 1983 (Masters, 1991). For suicides, a detailed case history or informationabout the individual’s life is necessary. For example, a recent analysis of a female suicidewas based on a 200-page diary that she wrote during the last year of her life (Lester,
Received 30 December 2003; accepted 20 February 2004.Address correspondence to David Lester, PhD, Center for the Study of Suicide, RR41,5 Stonegate Court, Blackwood, NJ 08012-5356, USA. E-mail: lesterd@stockton.edu
 
   D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   B  y  :   [   E   B   S   C   O   H  o  s   t   E   J   S   C  o  n   t  e  n   t   D   i  s   t  r   i   b  u   t   i  o  n   ]   A   t  :   1   8  :   5   1   8   M  a  r  c   h   2   0   0   8
284D. Lester et al.
2004), complemented by a brief outline of her life provided by her sister. Such datahave not been collected for any suicide bomber as yet.Failing this, it is necessary to conduct a psychological autopsy (Weisman and Kasten-baum, 1968). A psychological autopsy involves reconstructing the life of the suicidefrom birth on, with a particular focus on recent events, stressors, mood, statements, andbehaviors, by means of interviews with all of the significant others, friends, and col-leagues in the suicide’s life. This can be guided by a structured interview protocol (Clark and Horton-Deutsch, 1992). Again, a psychological autopsy has not yet been publishedon any suicide bomber.In order to show that suicide bombers may possess suicide risk factors and thatpsychological profiles may be possible, this essay will draw on cases that are not suicidebombers, but which resemble them, and on evidence that is incomplete, in order to suggestthat the assertions made by others and noted earlier are premature and may be incorrect.First, the available commentary on suicide bombers will be reviewed in order toexamine what data and speculation presently exists.
Previous Studies Of Suicide Bombers
Murder followed by suicide is not rare (West, 1966), but the motive in Western nationsis usually interpersonal between the victim(s) and the murderer. A husband may murderhis wife (or ex-wife) before committing suicide, or a mother may murder her childrenbefore killing herself. It is rarely politically motivated.Politically motivated killing in which the killer dies is not uncommon historically,as in the Japanese kamikaze pilots in the Second World War. In the Old Testament,Samson killed thousands of Philistines, dying in the act. Today, suicide bombers deto-nate bombs, killing themselves and bystanders.Very little of the analysis of suicide bombers has focused on the psychodynamicsbehind the acts.
1
Salib (2003) noted that most discussions of the suicidal terrorist men-tion the charisma of the leader and the social structure of the group, the irrationality of their beliefs (especially in regard to what will happen to them in the afterlife), and thepossibility that they have been brainwashed. A focus on situational theories and the roleof the leader makes the suicide bomber appear to be a vulnerable person who is easilymanipulated. In this case, the question may be asked what in this person’s childhood,adolescence, and socialization experience led him to become so vulnerable.
Sociodemographic Characteristics
Although Schbley (2000) argued that religious martyrs rarely come from the wealthysocial classes, Kushner (1996) noted that the Palestinian bombers do not always comefrom poverty. Many are from affluent families and are students or graduates fromthe West Bank’s Bir Zeit University. Nolan (1996) reported on 13 Palestinian suicidebombers in 1994–1996 and found them to be unmarried men, aged 19–25, from devoutMuslim families. They were middle children from large families, high-school educated,and students in Islamic fundamentalist education centers, had lived in refugee camps,and had a father or brother (or close relative) killed in the Intifada. They have a strongPalestinian identity and a sense of hopelessness,
2
and they are unable to find work andare too poor to study. Their act improves their own social status and that of theirfamily who may be praised and given money. Kushner (1996) noted that the families

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