Why Kids Kill Other Kids

The leading cause of death in teenagers in America is by gun violence. What is more disturbing is how many teens and children are killed by other teens. In Philadelphia we witness regular reports of young individuals with handguns shooting others and fleeing police. This raises many questions as to why we have seen this violence become so prominent.

Katherine Ramsland is a professor of forensic psychology at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, where she also teaches criminal justice and serves as the assistant provost. She has spent a great deal of research and has written hundreds of articles on topics related to violence.

In an article published in Psychology Today, Dr. Ramsland cites some of the cultural reasons why kids murder other kids. Her key points on this issue include:

  • Kids who murder their peers tend to express poorly reasoned motivations.
  • Some kids who kill may be vulnerable to social forces that present murder as a potent experience.
  • Kids who kill often believe the violent assault will enhance their lives.

Here is a quote from this article from Dr. Ramsland:

“Recently, some cases popped into the news involving adolescents who purposely killed someone their age for trivial reasons. With all the glamour attached to killers in the media, we shouldn’t be surprised that some kids regard murder as a viable route to a goal. (These acts are different from those that school shooters perpetrate.) Below are reasons I’ve seen for murder plans that kids have made for personal gain.”

She then cites these reasons given by teens who killed other teens:

  • Payback/Revenge
  • Prowess in Malice
  • Personal Dislike/Disposal
  • Greed/Personal Gain
  • Delusional Emulation

These stories are vivid, disturbing and tragic. It is clear that the influencers in the lives of these kids have lead them down a dark road that reflect poor reasoning via social messaging of violence and misguided information about what will improve their lives. These influencers are powerful and reflect the absence of counter messages and values that would help these kids deal with conflicts and needs in civil and non-violent ways. 

As disturbing and difficult it is to conceive this kind of violence, those of us who care for teenagers should be aware of these types of messages. We need to counter them when dealing with teenagers who are rationalizing violence that will lead to dire life and death consequences.

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