Young Female Murderers

Here's What a Killer Girl Looks Like

Posted May 10, 2012

In spite of the recent media attention surrounding violent teen girls, we members of the fairer sex continue to fall much lower on the murder scale than our male counterparts. This is true for young girls, teens, and adults. However, just because teen girls aren't usually dangerous doesn't mean they can't be - and in ways that are different from, and, in some situations, more dangerous, than boys. Beginning as young as age 6, girls who murder tend to exhibit certain "signatures" that continues through adulthood.  

Portrait of a Teen Girl Who Kills

For example, teen girl murderers tend to be younger than their male counterparts. In comparison to boys, they're more likely to kill family members, intimate partners, younger children (four times more likely to kill a child under 5), and other females (twice as likely). Teen boys like guns; teen girls tend to use knives and other weapons. When young girls kill family members, they're likely to do it alone. When murder is part of another crime like robbery or gang conflict, they're more likely to play a secondary role to a male lead.

Deadly Conflict

One of the most interesting differences between young male and female murderers is the "trigger" that usually leads to homicide. While adolescent boys tend to kill as part of another felony, teens girls are more likely to kill as a result of either interpersonal conflict or domestic stress. For example, teen mothers are far more likely to kill their infants than teen fathers, supporting prior research that pregnant teens may resort to killing the newborn if they perceive that support isn't available to them. Similarly, a vulnerable young mother (or, for that matter, an older child forced to take care of younger siblings), unable to deal with the psychological and physical demands of a small child, may kill out of frustration.

In addition, as any mother of a teenage girl will tell you, adolescent females are more likely to have outright conflict with their parents than teen boys. Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that teen girls are more likely to kill family members as a result of an argument.

The Bottom Line

In comparison to teen boys, teen girls are still much less likely to kill. For those who do, severe family stress or domestic conflict is likely to be the circumstance that leads to it. Intervening with vulnerable adolescent females (new teen mothers, girls in severely dysfunctional homes, etc.) may be the best way to prevent a double tragedy - the homicide victim and the wasted life of a teen.