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Student Resources for Psychology
Psych in the News
Why Kids Kill


By Elaine Cassel

On February 29, 2000, a 6-year-old Flint, Hill Michigan first-grader took a .32 caliber handgun to school and shot and killed a 6-year-old female classmate. Should we be surprised?

No doubt everyone was shocked by the horrifying news, in spite of the fact that in the past two years children and young adolescents are increasingly arming themselves with firearms and taking aim at peers. Recently, for instance, 13-year-old Nathaniel Abraham, also a Michigan resident, was convicted of second-degree murder for the shooting death of an 18-year-old neighbor when Nathaniel was 11 years old.

Shocked, yes, but surprised? Sadly, no. With his father in jail and his mother on the street doing drugs, the boy was staying in what law enforcement officers called a "flop house." Home to this little boy was a dirty bungalow with blankets covering broken windowpanes, out of which the boy's relatives conducted their business of exchanging crack cocaine for guns. We heard that he did not have a bed to call his own. Who cooked for him? Who bathed and dressed him? And, more importantly, who loved him?

He won't be charged with murder only because he is below the age of criminal responsibility, 7 years of age in Michigan. No doubt having seen men fire (or threaten to) a gun at someone who crossed them, this young boy took a .32 caliber handgun to school and settled the score with a 6-year-old girl who had argued with him—and reportedly slapped him—the day before.

Unfortunately, we also know too much about the grim prospects for this boy's future. Maybe with the perfect foster parents, this troubled, damaged child can change into a healthy, loving, gentle boy. But what a task those parents will have. For this little boy must learn an entirely new way of thinking, feeling, and behaving.

His parents let him down, and his community and school looked the other way. Now that he has our attention, what are we going to do about him—and those out there like him?


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