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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Teenage killers : a comprehensive examination of Canadian youth-perpetrated homicide, psychopathy, motivation, violence, and the number of perpetrators Agar, Ava Dawn


Homicide is, arguably, the most extreme type of criminal behaviour. Despite its obvious importance, relatively little empirical research has been conducted on youth homicide—with even less focusing on Canadian data. Recent research on Canadian adult-perpetrated homicides (e.g., M. Juodis, M. Woodworth, S. Porter, & L. ten Brinke, in press; M. Woodworth & S. Porter, 2002) indicates that homicides can be reliably differentiated across particular offence characteristics (i.e., motivation, psychopathy, and the number of perpetrators). Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to examine the potential differences in the characteristics of Canadian youth-perpetrated homicide across motivation, psychopathy, and the number of perpetrators. Clinical files (N=105) of youth charged with homicide between 1990 and 2008 were coded across a number of items designed to capture youth-specific variables. Results revealed important significant differences. Specifically, youth were more likely to commit instrumental than reactive homicides (p <.001). However, low psychopathy youth were 4 times more likely to commit reactive homicides when acting alone (p <.01), whereas youth scoring high on psychopathy showed a preference for instrumental homicides, regardless of the number of perpetrators. Additionally, only the affective component of psychopathy predicted instrumentality (p <.05). Gratuitous and sexual violence were also more likely when a high psychopathy youth was involved in the homicide (p <.01). Finally, youth committed substantially more homicides with accomplices and against strangers than previously reported. Implications for prevention, treatment, and criminal investigation of youth-perpetrated homicides are discussed.

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