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Why Do Teens Murder Parents

Teens, parents and violence

Dear Dr. G.,

I recently read about a teenager who killed his parents. I believe that it was in New Mexico. I am the mother of two teens-a boy and a girl. While my teens get mad at me at times I can't possibly understand why a teen or any child for that matter would hurt the person who loves them the most.

I was hoping you could shed some light on this topic. I forgot to tell you that I'm a high school math teacher so I'm wondering if there are any signs that I should be looking for in my students. I'm not a therapist or anything but I'm a caring mother, teacher and member of society.

I thank you in advance for any light that you can shed on this issue.

A Baffled Mother & Teacher

Dear Mother & Teacher,

You are in good and plentiful company. The word parents, children and murder do not belong in the same sentence. Nonetheless, there have been many cases of teens who have murdered their parents. This is a horrifying thought for both you and other parents everywhere.

It is very difficult to predict violence. In fact, violence is one of the hardest behaviors to predict. Nonetheless, I have scoured the research and have found some common characteristics that teens who kill their parents have in common. I do want to reassure you and the millions of other parents out there that parricide or teens killing their parents is a rare event. I guess that is not reassuring because even one such event is one too many

Here is what I found in the literature:

1. Teens who kill parents tend to be males. This makes sense because in our society boys are generally more aggressive.

2. This next one may be a surprise to parents everywhere but these teens generally lack a history of psychosis. They tend not to be out of touch with reality.

3. Some researchers have found that the teens may be motivated by long-term parental abuse. This needs further exploration.

4. Teens are more likely to kill stepparents than biological parents. There are several possible explanations for this finding but perhaps teens feel less attached to stepparents or perhaps they experience their stepparents as more abusive


5.When asked how they feel after having committed the murder these teens tend to describe feeling relief rather than remorse.

I don't know exactly what signs you should be looking for in your students but if you notice that a teen is behaving in a significantly different manner that is always a reason for concern.

Thank you for your very difficult question. I am planning to do some very serious research in this area over the course of the next year and I will keep you updated


Dr. G.

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