This book was undertaken to provide some insights into children who commit murder. We felt it important to distinguish between preteens (our subjects of study) and adolescents. The frequency of murders by preteens is low (as will be described in chapter 1). As a result, preteens are typically neglected as a focus of study or they are considered along with adolescents, despite the sharp differences in their life experiences and the causal factors involved in their cases.
Murders by adolescents have been a continuing and growing problem for law enforcement personnel, social and mental health workers, teachers, families, and friends of adolescents. Because of their high profile and the frequency of murders by adolescents, youth in this age group have been the subject of close and careful study. Many excellent books and research articles have documented and sought to account for their homicidal behavior. Adolescents themselves have communicated (albeit unwillingly at times) and have been able to articulate their intent, motives, and methods and have demonstrated at least partial awareness of the consequences of their behavior.
In child murderers access to their motives and intent is far more difficult to ascertain. Their explanations are often unclear, confusing, or even completely lacking. Awareness of consequences of their behavior is extremely limited and most often completely absent. This is not surprising, since levels of reasoning and moral judgment are in the very early stages of development.