[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
October 4, 1976

The Deadly Innocents: Portraits of Children Who Kill

JAMA. 1976;236(14):1629. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03270150059043

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


Dr Gardiner, psychoanalyst and consulting psychiatrist to schools and prisons, has encountered many youthful offenders in her career. Among these, she selected ten who committed violent crimes, including murder, but were not habitual delinquents. None were psychotic, addicts, or members of gangs. All were lonely, with little or no experience of love or happiness in their lives. She tells their stories vividly and compassionately.

Stephen Spender, in a perceptive preface, comments, "In this book everyone is regarded equally as a person. No one is turned into an abstraction, a 'case'... or treated as a bundle of psychological factors" and adds, "If I had been born into the circumstances of one of these children, I would have acted very much as he did."

Not only does the author show the circumstances leading up to these crimes, but she tells something of the later history of the delinquents. All were sent to