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Adolescent Parricide and Psychopathy

Wade C. Myers & Eleanor Justen Vo

International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology; August 2012 vol. 56 no. 5 715-729.

 

Abstract

Most cases of juvenile parricide are believed to be the result of child abuse, yet the vast majority of abused children do not kill their parental abusers. This study explored the role of psychopathy in 10 adolescent parricide offenders tried in adult court who were referred for pretrial psychiatric evaluation. In addition, psychopathological findings, crime-related behaviors, and judicial outcomes are described. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders diagnoses, most commonly posttraumatic stress disorder, and chronic, severe child abuse were prevalent. Psychopathic traits were not found to have played a role in the traumatized youths' parricidal behavior. Killings occurred in the family homes, usually through a surprise attack with parent-owned firearms. There was an average of 1.7 victims per event, with fathers being the most likely victim. Bodies were commonly covered or wrapped and moved postmortem. Confessions were often incredible in quality. One half received sentences of 40+ years, and the modal sanction was a life sentence, despite 90% premorbidly described as good youth. Further studies of adolescent parricide are needed to better understand this unusual population.

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