Sympathy for the Devil? Child Homicide, Victim Characteristics, and the Sentencing Preferences of the American Conscience
114 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2008 Last revised: 22 Nov 2012
Date Written: March 23, 2007
The act of killing a child attracts a deluge of media attention but a relative drip of sociological literature. This thesis deconstructs American views of child homicide and uses multivariate logistic regression analysis to conduct the first experimental test of the effects of victim characteristics (such as age) on sentencing recommendations in four different homicide scenarios: accidental, drunken, impulsive, and premeditated.
The findings illuminate the link between social norms and sentencing severity. Three conclusions may be drawn: first, child sympathy does not appear to vary by the respondent's demographic traits; second, child killers are sentenced more harshly than the killers of adults, but only when criminal intent is evident; and third, while there is a positive relationship between youth of the victim and the severity of punishment assigned to the offender, the effects for child and teen homicide are not so dissimilar as to contradict existing legal statutes in the United States.
Keywords: children, youth, murder, criminal, homicide, law, media, survey, experiment
JEL Classification: K10, K40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation