Until it started to decline in the mid-1990s, homicide had been the only major cause of childhood death to increase over the past four decades.The homicide victimization rate for U.S. children is still substantially higher than any other developed country. Homicides are not evenly distributed geographically, with a majority of U.S. counties experiencing no juvenile homicides, while others experience very high rates. Racially, African American juveniles suffer a much higher homicide victimization rate.
Juvenile homicide can be clearly broken down into three quite different subtypes.
- Homicides of young children (ages 5 and younger) are mostly committed by family members through beating or suffocation. Victims include roughly equal numbers of boys and girls and offenders include substantial numbers of females. Homicides of young children may be seriously undercounted.
- Middle childhood (ages 6 to 11) is a time when a child's homicide risk is relatively low. Homicides of children in middle childhood show a mixed pattern. Some result from child maltreatment and others from firearms. Some are sexually motivated and some are committed as part of multiple-victim family homicides.
- Homicides of teenagers mostly involve male victims of male offenders using firearms. Most are committed by acquaintances. This group declined by 61% between 1995 and 2005.
Source: David Finkelhor & Dick Ormrod (2001). Homicides of Children and Youth. Juvenile Justice Bulletin – NCJ187239 (pgs. 1-12).