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Juvenile Homicide - A Literature Review

NCJ Number
J Kreisman; R Seiden
Date Published
Juveniles are committing more homicides (including parricides) than ever before, as well as falling victim to them at a higher rate. This review analyzes approximately 70 studies and essays on murderous youths, discussing methodological problems, common psychological factors, and prediction and prevention issues.
Many studies fail to note the murderer's ethnicity and to compare murderous youths to suicidal youths and to murderous adults. They also fail to differentiate juvenile murderers from other types of juvenile delinquents. Despite limited samples, the studies provide the outlines of a psychological explanation, linking family and sociological dynamics to youth subculture theories and the socialization of violence through the media. Typologies are based on mental states or on the type of murder committed. Only two articles developed criteria for assessing adolescents' potential for homicidal behavior. Duncan and Duncan (1971) listed seven such criteria, including availability of weapons and the victim's degree of helplessness. The one study addressing only prevention issues urged more research and planning, better coordination among juvenile justice agencies, and greater concern for the emotional problems of juveniles entering custody. Overall, the gravity of the juvenile homicide problem merits increased attention to methodological issues, with emphasis on prevention, prediction, and intervention. Tabular data and 73 references are provided. For the annotated bibliography, see NCJ-87245.