Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- Note: for practices of systematically killing very young children, see infanticide. For the killing of one's own children, see filicide.
The murder of children is considered a particularly abhorrent crime in most societies; they are perceived within their communities and the state at large as being vulnerable and therefore especially susceptible to abduction and murder. The protection of children from abuse and possible death often involves disturbing the child's family structure, as tenuous as this may be.
Killing by family members vs. killing by strangers
Most murderers of children are relatives, acquaintances or caretakers. Younger children are more likely to be murdered by a relative while older children (15-17) are killed most often by acquaintances, which would include guardians, caretakers, etc.
In modern times, the killing of children is often closely related to instances of prolonged periods of child abuse. Some victims are murdered by parents as part of a murder-suicide. Parents sometimes begin administering corporal punishment that quickly escalates into severe abuse and occasionally murder, as, for example, in the Victoria Climbié case which occurred in London.
A small percentage of murderers of children are pedophiles who commit lust murder or kill to cover up their other crimes. These latter cases are more notorious, although killings by family members are more common.
There have been a number of moral panics related to child murder, of which the most notable is the satanic ritual abuse phenomenon, where reports of organized killings of large numbers of children by satanic gangs have failed to be corroborated in spite of decades of investigation.
These moral panics have tended to obscure those rare cases where actual pedophile gangs have acted to prey upon children.
Several cases of exorcism carried out by family members or religious groups have resulted in the murders of children.
Killing of children by other children
In most countries, there are very few cases where children are killed by other young children. According to the U.S. Department of Justice statistics for 1996 , one in five murders of children are committed by other children. Several murders by children have gained prominent media exposure. One was the killing on November 24, 1993 of the almost three-year-old boy James Bulger by two ten-year-old boys in Liverpool, England, UK. He was beaten and stoned to death and his body left on the train tracks to make it appear that he had died by being hit by a train. Also, in 1968 in Newcastle, England there was the trial of 10-year old Mary Bell. She was convicted of manslaughter due to diminished responsibility in the deaths of toddlers Martin Brown and Brian Howe. She was released in 1980 at the age of 23.
Although the United States certainly has an unusually high number of killings of children by other children, it is most often the case that the perpetrators and victims are teenagers, not children. In many such cases, the youthful perpetrator is tried as an adult for their crime.
In 1992, after the fatal shooting of 7-year-old Dantrell Davis as he left the Cabrini-Green public housing project for school, the Chicago Tribune put every child murder on the front page (generally no murders were front page news). 62 child murders were reported that year.
Multiple deaths in one incident, such as the 1999 Columbine High School massacre or the 1996 Dunblane massacre tend to gather the most media attention but are statistically scarce. In addition, only 14 people were killed in the Columbine massacre.
It is often claimed that due to media bias in the United States, a relatively small number of child killings in white, upper-class suburbia are given an inordinately large amount of attention, while the majority of victims that are minorities, urban-dwelling, and socioeconomically disadvantaged receive little or no media attention.
Genocide and child soldiers
Muti is a murderous practice of human sacrifice and mutilation associated with some traditional cultural practices, such as Sangoma, in South Africa. Victims of muti killings are often children. An unknown child (referred to as Adam), whose decapitated torso was found in the River Thames in London in 2001 is believed to have been the victim of a muti killing. 
Traditional stories connected with child murder
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