Children Who Kill and What Motivates Them


This paper looks into the case of juvenile delinquency – in specific, the cases of children who kill. The cases of children involvement in homicide have been on the increase and have raised alarm in the criminal justice systems. The paper tries to look into this criminal issue in the context of the criminal justice system and the society. The paper is subdivided into three major parts. The first part of the paper has put the case into a true picture as in how the cases of children who kill are increasing. This is becoming a trendy issue which needs a deep in-look. The second part of the paper takes a psychotherapeutic explanation of the cases of children who kill. The characteristics of children who commit murder are described basing on clinical examinations over a long period of time. The third part of this paper explores the generative factors which are motivators of violent behavior in children like killing. Under this part, the paper discusses various happenings and activities and makes a link between these activities and children who kill. The last part of this paper analyses how these cases are affecting the juvenile criminal justice system. It analyses how the cases affect the system and how the system affects such cases. The challenges in prosecuting these cases are also discussed in this analysis.

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Overview of Juvenile delinquency – children who kill

According to Elrod & Ryder (2011) juvenile delinquency has been on the increase in modern times. Unlike the ancient times when children could only involve themselves in petty mistakes, children are now involved in weighty crimes. This has been raised alarm to the criminal justice system. Children are even involved or direct participants in homicide or murder cases. This has attracted research into the area of juvenile crime. Researchers seek to establish the underlying motivations behind the rise in juvenile delinquency. The major interest is to look deep into the serious cases in juvenile delinquency – children murderers. The assessment of development in murder cases involving children can be helpful in understanding the motivation or the pointers to children involvement in murder cases. Continued research is linking these cases to the psychotherapy as the best way through which they can be explained (Heckel & Shumaker (2001). This paper looks into research on juvenile delinquency. It focuses on murder cases committed by children and the impact such cases are bringing to the criminal justice system.

Overview of clinical psychotherapy test outcomes of the characteristics of juvenile delinquents

Heckel & Shumaker (2001) argue that the delinquent tendencies in children can be best explained by psychotherapists who keep assessing their behaviors. It has been observed that most children who commit big crimes such as murder have deep feelings of insecurity in them. Despite the presence of an insecure environment, delinquents rarely show that they are insecure. They do not show any signs of feeling insecure and makes attempts at all costs to draw away such feelings. They make all attempts to match with the surrounding environment such as dressing and actively participating in groups. They show conformity to groups. This is referred to as overt bravado. However, delinquents portray a certain character which differs from other children. The delinquents have high levels of anxiety to identify with notorious heroic figures in movies. They have a very high sense of life which manifests at early stages of life; between 10 to 12 years. At this age they are well versed with different lifestyles like different car models and their preferred models Heckel & Shumaker (2001).

Delinquents are aware of the different forms of aggression. They also like displaying courage as well as manliness and like taking part in risky or dangerous activities. They have mechanisms of holding emotions even when they are spotted committing aggression acts. They rarely admit or show anger in them. Delinquents show an indifference character as it concerns other people. They do not show sympathy or empathy to other people and if any to a very small extent. They try to exercise the aggressive acts committed on them to other children. The delinquents show recognition of boundaries in their environment and put strong barriers between the se boundaries. Even though they may have feelings of guilt, the delinquents do not admit to this. They are not apologetic. Delinquents seldom exercise self-control. They are often restless and engage in many activities in whichever environment they are placed in. Delinquents are extra active and will often prefer to engage themselves in groups. In cases where they are not taking part in group activities, they will involve themselves in other activities like watching movies. From these and many more characteristics, it is evident that there are many psychological distinctions between normal children and delinquents (Villaveces & DeRoo, 2008).

A debater rages in the justice system handling cases of child delinquency. This results from the confusion of how to handle such cases as some claim that violent delinquent characters in children emanate from the environment. On the other hand, there is an argument that juvenile delinquents are born and that such characters are not induced from the environment. It however remains debatable on how the environment can mold or directly lead children to committing such heinous acts like killing. The environment here refers to the family and the community. Individual character is seen by other researchers as the cause of such cases in children (Haugaard & Feerick, 2002).

Maltreatment of children and the cycle of violence in children

Crooks, Scott, Ellis & Wolfe (2011) observe that research has made efforts to ascertain the factors or reasons that push children to commit murder. This is done by studying the cycle of violence in juvenile delinquency cases. Research outcomes points out that child who are maltreated are at a higher risk of becoming delinquent. Children who come from violent families get exposed to violence in their early stages of life thence they are likely to adopt violence. This is replicated in the delinquent acts that are done by these children. While this is true, it is hard to establish the level at which these children will engage in crime and commit crimes of a very big magnitude. A certain level of delinquency is expected for children who are victims of violence in their families. While research points out that violent behavior of children and caused by post post-traumatic disorders resulting from maltreatment of children, many cases of maltreatment of children go unattended to (McLeigh & Sianko, 2010). This raises questions about the effectiveness of the juvenile criminal systems.

The number of cases of maltreatment of children has been on the rise in spite of.too many other cases going unreported. However, research has been reviling that most children who are maltreated often become or show signs of violence. This results from the comparison of the delinquent behavioral tendencies in maltreated and non-maltreated children. A direct relationship prevails between child delinquency and maltreatment. Post-traumatic stress disorders and depression accumulates in children as they continue to be exposed to violence and harsh treatment. This has to be released at certain stages in their lives. The more such pressures are accumulated, the more likely that the child will portray a delinquent behavior. Violent acts are indicators of maltreatment. They act as release models for violent acts on children (Bender, Postlewait, Thompson & Springer, 2011).

To reduce the violent criminal acts from children, the Juvenile justice system has to strengthen the child welfare system. This is an intervening role which will help identify the system which will help in identifying the cases of maltreatment and offering a better environment for such children. Psychological support should further be extended to such children to help them in easing their minds. This level of intervention could be helpful in preventing the number of juvenile violent crimes across the globe. The backlog of juvenile criminal cases will be greatly brought down by enhancing such measurers (Haugaard & Feerick, 2002). Nonetheless, the juvenile criminal system is not proactive as they spend a lot of time trying to prosecute mind bogging cases violence committed by children. The procedure of prosecution of children is different from the normal criminal procedures in murder cases. Children are overly protected by the international justice system which makes it quite hard to establish strong cases of child crime (Henning, 2010).

Apart from the mal-treatment of children, the visual media has also received a fair share of blames on causing juvenile crimes. The children access to media has been widened. As children get exposed to media violence, they are more likely to be corrupted by this violence. It is normal, nowadays to find young children nowadays watching movies or television programs which have a lot of clips on direct violence like murder. As child psychology pints points out, children adapts so fast to their immediate environment. Continuous exposure to media violence often culminates into violent characters. Children may start patenting themselves to violent figurers in the horror and other violent programs and movies. These cases have been linked to various juvenile delinquency cases in different parts of the world. As television violence is not controlled, children continue to be exposed to it leading to the corrupting of their minds (Henning, 2010).

Research reveals that children who are exposed to media violence are more than twice violent in their interaction with other children as compared to children who are not violent. They innocently exhibit the violent character of murders in their social interactions. Perhaps, this could be one of the areas that need to be looked into by the players in the juvenile crime system. Children need to be restricted to non-violent educative programs which will aid them in social and psychological growth. This is a negation of the prevailing social system where parents continue to evade the responsibility of making choices to their children. The question that remains lingering is how the criminal system can assert its force on the social system and help to shape the system in reference to preventing crime. One way of preventing the exposure of media violence to children could be through the formation of laws which criminalize the act of exposing media violence to children. The juvenile justice system has to be a central player (Strom & Strom, 2009).

Historical injustices and their link to children who kill

There is another viewpoint on child murder acts. The increasing cases of civil wars in different countries have been behind the act of courage for children to commit murder. The children are captured and force to participate in violent acts as child soldiers. As child soldiers, these children are made to take some oaths which give them courage to kill of commit heinous acts. Once they are used to these, they become accosted to crime. When they are finally rescued form the rebel camps, these children are incorporated back into the society. However, the complete procedures of pacifying the corrupted mindset of these children are rarely followed and if so they are not implemented to the later stages. The juvenile criminal system has to be actively involved in designing programs to normalize the behavior of the ex-children soldiers (Nakaya, 2005).

The dilemma that lies in prosecution of Juvenile delinquency cases

Villaveces & DeRoo (2008) note that juvenile crime cases are complicated by article twelve of the United Nations Convention on the Right rights of the child. This law recognized the essence of the voice of children in judicial proceedings in criminal cases involving children. Criminal proceedings for juvenile delinquency cases involving children must first establish the effect which the proceedings will have on child. The liberty of the child has to be discussed extensively due to issues of age. Rehabilitative prospects have also to be discussed in relation to the rights that are accorded to children in the constitution. Juvenile court functions are thus stretched by the mushrooming cases of violent and tragic crimes committed by children. The higher the number of juvenile criminal cases the more the need for therapeutic processes to bring out therapeutic outcomes to help in prosecuting children (Villaveces & DeRoo, 2008).

The processing of educating children about the cases before in courts by their lawyers consumes quite a lot of time. All in all, the children may end up not understanding the criminal procedure at all. They are given time to express their stories which they might not be able to clearly articulate the course of events. Children are argued to be incapable of making rational statements basing on normative judgment of happenings. Also, different nations have different age restrictions for the definition of children and adults. Therefore, a person who may appear to be a child according to one nation may be considered to an adult in another country (Henning, 2010). The juvenile courts have been historically linked to rehabilitation efforts for children convicted of crimes. It is however overwhelming for the courts to handle cases of such magnitude; children committing murder offences (Hess, Orthmann & Drowns, 2010). Violence reduction programs in schools can be helpful in lowering cases of child delinquency. However, schools view some cases of violence by children as being too big to be contained at the school level. Such cases end up even shocking the schools (Crooks, Scott, Ellis & Wolfe, 2011).


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Crooks, C. V., Scott, K., Ellis, W., & Wolfe, D. A. (2011). Impact of a universal school-based violence prevention program on violent delinquency: Distinctive benefits for youth with maltreatment histories. Child Abuse & Neglect, 35(6), 393-400.

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Villaveces, A., & DeRoo, L. A. (2008). Child delinquency and the prophylaxis of crime in early 20th-century Latin America. Revista Panamericana De Salud Pública, 24(6), 449-454.

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