Information on Kids and Violence


Warning Signs of Kids who Kill
Cruelty to animals & smaller children
Morbid fascination (beyond normal for juvenile males) with violence and death
Fascination with fire /fire-setting
Threats or talk about killing or harming others
Considered "weird" or dangerous by peers
Uncontrollable temper tantrums, especially at early ages
Narcissistic, thinks others have no rights
History of enuresis (bedwetting)

your copy of
"The Scarred Heart"

* Note, though, that many children possess one or
more of these signs without becoming killers.

I have broken down the types of juvenile killers into different categories, each with their own unique set of characteristics. These are the school killers, cult-related killers, parricidal killers and gang-related killers. Following are some of their distinguishing characteristics of school killers cult-related killers, parricidal killers and gang-related killers:

School Killers:

    1) They tend to kill and injure multiple victims in a single incident. They don't just target one person as part of an individual dispute, but launch into a shooting spree that results in many deaths and injuries.

    2) They usually have no secondary criminal motive such as robbery, their primary goal is to kill or harm others.

    3) They tend to be younger, most youth murderers are 15 or over, but school shooters tend to be no older than 14.

    4) Have a history of social problems, they tend to feel rejected and feel others are out to get them.

    5) They tend to have extreme narcissistic features as opposed to low self-esteem. Narcissists often want to punish or defeat anyone who threatens their favorable image of themselves (APA monitor).

* Many school killings take place in areas of the world that we think of as safe, such as Japan. What is unusual is that many of the Japanese students use a knife as their weapon of choice as opposed to a gun in the U.S. Boys tend to use a gun as a tool for murder more often than girls, who tend to use knives.

A study from the National School Safety
Center at Pepperdine University found:

School shooting deaths by year

    55 in 1992-1993
    51 in 1993-1994
    20 in 1994-1995
    35 in 1995-1996
    25 in 1996-1997
    40 in 1997-1998.

Cult Killers

Some experts have estimated that there could be as many as 50,000 cult-related killings each year in the United States. However, Charles Ewing, a forensic psychologist, points out that this is an unusually high number and would mean that all of the 20,000 or so known homicides as well as an additional 30,000 unknown homicides would have to be cult-related (Ewing, 1990).

    1) Youth involved in Satanism tend to be more disturbed and present more often to therapists. They have usually suffered some type of trauma, and tend to have symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    2) There are also indications that teens involved with Satanism tend to suffer more from Mood Disorders such as depression or manic-depression or from Personality Disorders such as antisocial qualities or conduct disorder.

    3) Depression plays a major factor in whether teens join satanic cults. There is a strong correlation between involvement with dark areas of the occult and the loss of meaning, hope, and faith. Many teens who join satanic cults have despairing beliefs because of insufficient family or community nurturance (see Sparks, 1989).

    4). Other studies have found that adolescents involved in the occult tend to be sensation seekers and at the same time to be more alienated from their school, town and social institutions.

Parricidal Killers

    1) Parricide is the killing of one's parents; "patricide" is the term used for the killing of one's father and "matricide" is the killing of one's mother.

    2) The common thread that experts find in most parricides is that the child has been sexually or emotionally abused by one or both parents. Typically, the abuse by a father is physical abuse, while in cases of matricide, the abuse is of a sexual or psychological nature.

    3) Precise figures are lacking, but estimates suggest that parricide accounts for about 2% of all homicides committed in the United States.

    4) For every one child who has killed his or her parents or parent, there is another who has attempted and not succeeded. Youth who attempt parricide and those who commit parricide are close cousins. They share in common an abusive home environment, youth and parental alcohol or drug abuse, a runaway history, problem behaviors and school difficulties.

    5) When a victim survives an attempted parricide, it is often due more to luck and weapons choice then to a differing motive in the child perpetrator. Studies have shown that one difference for those who attempt parricide is a stronger affective component at the time of the killing--that is, the attempters seem to "feel more" than those who actually commit parricide. The latter tend to have more of a thinking component to their behavior when committing their crime, which perhaps accounts for their success (Flanigan, M., 1993).

Gang-Related Killers

    1) Research investigating why female gang members participate in violence found the following results: Girls who were violent felt "pumped up" and "powerful" during the act of violence and when they were exposed to community violence. When committing violent acts, girl gang members did not experience sadness, helplessness, care about their future, nor did they have hatred for their victim's weakness. Instead, they feel pumped up, powerful, and respected by their friends. The subjects used in one such study used violence to feel powerful while combating hopelessness. Many of the girls in this study did not expect to be alive at the age of 25 (C. Ashen, 1997).

    2) Reasons why gangs engage in violence are numerous and include protecting or expanding the gang's turf, recruiting new members, keeping members from leaving the gang, gaining respect or dominance over others, enforcing rules, and serving as a counterpoint or check on moral restraints or a moral conscience.

    3) It is beneficial for gangs to see normal moral restraints on violent impulses as weak or dysfunctional. This is because if a member had to sit and ponder on his or her decision to harm someone, it would be too risky. As a result of peer pressure to be violent, a gang member can often develop "psychic numbing" regarding acts of brutality. This programming for violence might be why gang members kill without feeling remorse, and actually take pride in their violent actions (Randolph and Erickson, 1998).

Interesting facts about violent kids:

Increased youth involvement in violence is evident from an analysis of official juvenile offending rates over the past decade from 1986-1995. Violent Crime Index offenses are those that involve murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.

    • Juvenile arrests for murder and nonnegligent manslaughter increased 90%.

    • Girls are becoming increasingly involved in aggressive crimes: In 1995, females were responsible for 15% of the total juvenile arrests for Violent Crime Index offenses with the most extensive involvement in aggravated assault arrests (20 percent).

    • From 1991-1995, female juvenile arrests for Violent Crime Index offenses increased 34 percent, nearly four times the male juvenile increase of 9 percent (Kelley, Huizinga, Thornberry).

    • Since 1987, African Americans have outnumbered Caucasians as juvenile homicide offenders. By 1994, 61% of juvenile homicide offenders were African American and 36 % were Caucasian (Snyder et al. 1996).



1) Barbara Tatem Kelley, David Huizinga, Terrence P.Thornberry, and Rolf Loeber, Epidemiology of Serious Violence, Juvenile Justice Bulletin, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Washington D.C., June 1997.

2) Snyder, H.N. , M.Sickmund, and E. Poe-Yamagata. 1996. Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 1996 Update on Violence. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

3) APA monitor, Vol. 29, Number 8, August 1998.

4) Ewing, Charles (1990). Kids Who Kill. Massachusetts: Lexington Books

5) Dissertation done by B. Sparks,(1989). "Playing with the Devil: Adolescent Involvement with the Occult, Black Magic, Witchcraft, and the Satanic to manage feelings of Despair."

6) Flanigan, M. (1993). "A Behavioral Portrait of the Attempted Adolescent Parricide Offender." (Doctoral Dissertation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University). Dissertation Abstracts International, Vol. 54-06A, Page 2054.

7) Ashen, C. (1997). "Feelings During the Act of Violent Behavior Among Female Adolescents and Their Relationship to Exposure and Experience of Violence." (Doctoral Dissertation, California School of Professional Psychology-Los Angeles). Dissertation Abstracts International, Vol. 58-03B, Page 1517.

8) Randolph, N. and Erickson, E. (1998). Youth Gangs: Guidelines for Educators and Community Youth Leaders, Learning Publications, Homes Beach, Florida.