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The Unpredictability of Murder: Juvenile Homicide in the Pathways to Desistance Study

NCJ Number
Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice Volume: 14 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2016 Pages: 26-42
M. DeLisi; A. R. Piquero; S. M. Cardwell
Date Published
January 2016
17 pages
Using data from Pathways to Desistance, a study of 1,354 serious youthful offenders, this study examined how 8 demographic characteristics and 35 risk factors distinguished between those youth who were charged with some type of homicide and those youth who were not charged with any type of homicide.

There is minimal research that has investigated the characteristics distinguishing youth who commit murder from other juvenile offenders. Of the research that has been done, scholars have identified a wide variety of factors that distinguish these offenders, including poor family environments, emotional and social problems, poor mental health, and behavioral disorders. The current study found that only 18 (1.33 percent) youth in the study sample were charged with a homicide offense. Among the predictors, age, intelligence quotient (IQ), exposure to violence, perceptions of community disorder, and prevalence of gun-carrying were significantly different across the two groups. Results from a rare-events logistic regression that simultaneously examined the relationship between these five risk factors and their ability to distinguish between the two groups indicate that only lower IQ and a greater exposure to violence were significant. Finally, a higher number of risk factors were associated with a higher likelihood that youth would be charged with homicide. (Publisher abstract modified)