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November 8, 1965


JAMA. 1965;194(6):665-666. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03090190087025

A psychological understanding of the murderer must go beyond estimates of the offender's conscious understanding of right and wrong, good and evil. The more youthful the offender, the greater the official consternation regarding his management. The paucity of scientific studies on adolescent murderers leaves few guidelines for understanding. A recent issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry1 presents findings for eight murderers, 14 to 21 years of age, who were given psychological and psychiatric examinations as a part of a diagnostic evaluation. Although this sample is small and the conclusions necessarily tentative, the general conclusion is that, in the case of these youthful murderers, there is a clinical syndrome corresponding to the "episodic dyscontrol" described by Menninger and Mayman.2

Emerging from the examination is a profile indicating that the youthful murderer is most likely to be suffering from a character structure referable to early oral deprivation. One can