The unpredictability of murder: juvenile homicide in the Pathways to Desistance Study

Matt DeLisi, Alex R. Piquero, Stephanie M. Cardwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


There is minimal research that has investigated the characteristics distinguishing youth who commit murder to other juvenile offenders. Of the research that has been done, scholars have identified a wide variety of factors that distinguish these offenders, including poor family environments, emotional and social problems, poor mental health, and behavioral disorders. Using data from Pathways to Desistance, a study of 1,354 serious youthful offenders, we examined how 8 demographic characteristics and 35 risk factors distinguish between those youth who were charged with some type of homicide and those youth who were not charged with any type of homicide. We find that only 18 (1.33%) youth were charged with a homicide offense. Among the predictors, age, intelligence quotient (IQ), exposure to violence, perceptions of community disorder, and prevalence of gun carrying are significantly different across the two groups. Results from a rare-events logistic regression that simultaneously examined the relationship between these five risk factors and their ability to distinguish between the two groups indicate that only lower IQ and a greater exposure to violence were significant. Finally, a higher number of risk factors were associated with a higher likelihood that youth would be charged with homicide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-42
Number of pages17
JournalYouth Violence and Juvenile Justice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • crime prediction
  • criminal career; Pathways to Desistance
  • juvenile homicide
  • murder

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