Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Vulnerable Children/When Children Kill: A Social-Psychological Study of Youth Homicide

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Vulnerable Children/When Children Kill: A Social-Psychological Study of Youth Homicide

Article excerpt

J. Douglas Willms (ed.), Vulnerable Children (Edmonton: the University of Alberta Press, 2002), xix + 444 pp. Cloth. $75.00. ISBN 0-8886-4399-3. Paper. $34.95. ISBN 0-8886-4392-6.

Katherine D. Kelly and Mark Totten, When Children Kill: A Social-Psychological Study of Youth Homicide (Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2002), xii + 282 pp. Paper. £10.99. ISBN 1-5511-1417-8.

These two books offer representations of childhood that are based upon contrasting methodologies. One, edited by J. Douglas Willms, represents children as vulnerable, potentially damaged by the circumstances around them. It is thoroughly quantitative in its analysis of survey data from a large sample, 22,831 children from 13,489 households. It makes reference to a wide range of psychological, health and socio-economic contexts. The other, by Katherine Kelly and Mark Totten, examines young people as social agents, exploring their actions in response to extreme circumstances. It is primarily qualitative, using in-depth interviews of a small sample (19) of young people who have killed as the basis for an exploratory analysis of their actions and their social context.

Willms and his twenty-six colleagues analyse data from Canada's National Longitudinal Survey of children and youth. Willms' opening remarks refer to risk factors for children, drawing attention to experiences such as prejudice, inadequate parenting, violence and poverty. There are five main sections to the book. The first lays the foundations for subsequent analysis, dealing with conceptualisation and measurement, summarising evidence about vulnerability and introducing theoretical and policy issues. The significance of poverty is considered (the 'culture of poverty' thesis is rejected) and the potential consequences of different interventions are evaluated. Section 2 considers risk factors in the early years. This is followed by data on the effects of features of family life such as parenting, and the work-family balance (section 3) and the effects of schooling (section 4). …

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