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Criminologists Study Ways to Predict Future Murderers

Update Date: Oct 17, 2014 03:37 PM EDT

If people could predict who would become killers, the world can be a safer place. However, this feat is nearly impossible since so many factors are at play. Despite this, a team of criminologists from the University of Texas at Dallas set out to devise methods that could help them predict and prevent potential killers.

For this study, the researchers analyzed data collected from Pathways to Desistance, which was a study that examined youths who committed serious crimes. There were a total of 1,354 youths, eight specific demographic characteristics and 35 risk factors. Based on this information, the researchers were able to separate 18 teenagers who were charged with homicide from those who were not.

"Based on a whole slew of characteristics that we know predict and differentiate criminal behavior-a wide variety of criminal behavior: theft, violence, drug use-can we distinguish from those characteristics the individuals who are charged with a homicide and those who are not?" the co-author of the report, Dr. Alex Piquero, Ashbel Smith Professor of criminology, said. "We found only five factors that were able to distinguish people who commit homicide from people who don't."

Overall, the researchers found that juveniles who were charged with homicide had significantly lower IQ (intelligence quotient), higher prevalence of gun-carrying, and greater exposure to violence. This group of kids was also from neighborhoods that were characterized by disorder. Only two of these factors, which were IQ and exposure to violence, were statistically significant.

"For instance, adolescents who are continually exposed to violence in their neighborhoods may learn that it is acceptable to handle their problems through violence," said doctoral criminology student Stephanie M. Cardwell, co-author of the paper, reported by Medical Xpress. "If these adolescents find themselves in situations where violence is a possibility, they might take that option because they have learned it is acceptable to do so or that it may be necessary to do so in that context."

The researchers concluded that homicide offenders are greatly affected by their situations and emotions. They are not necessarily mentally ill. When it comes to creating policies, experts should focus on how to prevent anti-social behavior.

The study, "The Unpredictability of Murder: Juvenile Homicide in the Pathways to Desistance Study", was published in the journal, Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice.

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