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Karyn Sporer

Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Maine
Chapter Leader: Maine SSN
Areas of Expertise:

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About Karyn

Dr. Sporer’s main research interests are in the areas of family violence and victimization, mental illness and violence, and violent extremism and terrorism. Her most recent work focuses on justifications for mass casualty violence used by Islamic State members and sympathizers with the hopes that we can appropriately confront the threat of jihadi-based and lone wolf violence in the west. Aside from this, Dr. Sporer’s secondary research agenda addresses violence and victimization among persons with severe mental illness.


In the News


"She’s Not the Child We Had”: How Parents Reconstruct Their Child’s Identity To Include Violent and With Mental Illness" (with Paige W. Toller). Journal of Family Trauma, Child Custody & Child Development (2022).

Examines the grief experiences of parents raising children with serious mental illness and violent tendencies (SMI/VT). Frames our findings through the concept of ambiguous loss.

"Aggressive Children With Mental Illness: A Conceptual Model of Family-Level Outcomes" Journal of Interpersonal Violence 34, no. 3 (2019).

Examines how families adapt and respond to an aggressive child with mental illness. Suggests that families with a violent child with mental illness and other healthy children cannot live through episodes of violence without removing the child with mental illness from the home or suffering considerable damage to the family.

"Mothers of Violent Children with Mental Illness: How They Perceive Barriers to Effective Help" (with Dana L. Radatz). Journal of Family Violence 32 (2017): 663-697.

Examines how mothers perceive and experience barriers to effective help for their violent child with mental illness: (1) denial of mental illness and severity of violence by treatment providers, extended family, and non-family members; (2) limited access to quality treatment and supports; and (3) a recurring cycle from optimism to hopelessness. Draws comparisons between these mothers with survivors of domestic violence to inform policy and practice recommendations.

"Finding the “Golden Moments”: Strategies of Perseverance Among Parents and Siblings of Persons With Severe Mental Illness and Violent Tendencies" Journal of Family Issues 40, no. 17 (2019).

Examines strategies family members identify as being helpful when challenged by stressors related to living with an aggressive child or sibling with severe mental illness. Identifies three strategies that may prove beneficial for family members confronted and confused by mental illness.

"Ideological Rationality and Violence: An Exploratory Study of ISIL’s Cyber Profile" (with Gina Scott Ligon, Douglas C. Derrick, and Sam Church). Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict 9, no. 1 (2017): 57-81.

Examines the narrative space of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).  Offers insight into the messaging and organizational dynamics of ISIL, particularly themes related to violence, pragmatism, and ideology.

"Narratives of Childhood Adversity and Adolescent Misconduct as Precursors to Violent Extremism: A Life-Course Criminological Approach" (with Pete Simi and Bryan F. Bubolz). Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 53, no. 4 (2016).

Examines how non-ideological factors such as childhood risk factors and adolescent conduct problems precede participation in violent extremism (VE). Suggests that pathways to VE are more complex than previously identified in the literature and that violent extremists are a heterogeneous population of offenders whose life histories resemble members of conventional street gangs and generic criminal offenders.