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.
Glenda Kaufman Kantor
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.
Homicides of Children and Youth
Finkelhor, D. and Ormrod, R.K.
This Bulletin gives a brief statistical portrait of various facets of child and youth homicide victimization in the United States. It draws heavily on homicide data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI’s) Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHRs), which are part of the Bureau’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program; however, it also relies on a variety of other studies and statistical sources.
Highlights of the findings presented in this Bulletin include the following:
- In 1999, about 1,800 juveniles (a rate o f3.0 per 100,000) were victims of homicide in the United States. This rate is substantially higher than that of any other developed country.
- Homicides of juveniles in the United States are unevenly distributed, both geographically and demographically. Rates are substantially higher for African American juveniles and for juveniles in certain jurisdictions. Yet, 85 percent of all U.S. counties had no homicides of juveniles in 1997.
- Homicides of teenagers, most of which involve male victims killed by male offenders using firearms, rose dramatically in the late 1980s and early 1990s but have declined sharply since 1993.
Source: David Finkelhor & Dick Ormrod (2001). Homicides of Children and Youth. Juvenile Justice Bulletin – NCJ187239 (pgs. 1-12).