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January 1961

Murderous Aggression by Children and Adolescents

Author Affiliations

Mayo Clinic and Mayo Foundation.
Section of Psychiatry (Dr. Steinhilber).
Fellow in Psychiatry, Mayo Foundation (Dr. Easson).
Dr. Easson is presently Consultant in Psychiatry, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.
The Mayo Foundation, Rochester, Minn., is a part of the Graduate School of the University of Minnesota.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1961;4(1):1-9. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1961.01710070003001

Murder, its causation and its treatment, is a subject that mankind has debated since the dawn of civilization—since Cain slew Abel. There have been many psychiatric studies on the subject of homicide but, as with studies on death itself, the investigations have tended to be superficial. The study of murder, of death and aggression, may arouse primitive anxiety in those who consider the question deeply. This present study is of children and adolescents who made a murderous attack. A collaborative psychiatric study has been made of each child and of all available relatives.

In many psychotic states murder may be committed. The commonest underlying psychosis is paranoid schizophrenia; the psychotic in these cases, though often he understands that he acts against the law, feels justified under the threat of his paranoid fear. The psychotic may try to destroy the unacceptable drives he feels in himself by

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