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Pre‐offense characteristics of nineteenth‐century American parricide offenders: an archival exploration

Phillip Chong Ho Shon (Based in the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities at University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Oshawa, Canada)
Shannon M. Barton‐Bellessa (Based in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, Indiana, USA)

Journal of Criminal Psychology

ISSN: 2009-3829

Article publication date: 16 March 2012




Previous criminological research has examined the causes and correlates of violent juvenile offending, but failed to explore the developmental taxonomies of crime throughout history. Theoretically, developmental trajectories of offending (i.e. life‐course persistent and adolescence‐limited offenders) should be identifiable irrespective of time and place. This study aims to examine the pre‐offense characteristics of nineteenth‐century American parricide offenders.


Using archival records of two major newspapers (New York Times, Chicago Tribune), the study examines 220 offenders who committed attempted and completed parricides during the latter half of the nineteenth century (1852‐1999).


Results reveal that a small group of adult parricide offenders displayed antisocial tendencies at an early age that persisted into adulthood. These findings are consistent with the developmental literature, thus providing support for identification of pre‐offense characteristics of parricide offenders across historical periods.


The findings reported in this paper are of value to psychologists, historians, and criminologists, for they illuminate the similarities in predictors related to violent behaviors in a small subsection of adult offenders across two centuries.



Chong Ho Shon, P. and Barton‐Bellessa, S.M. (2012), "Pre‐offense characteristics of nineteenth‐century American parricide offenders: an archival exploration", Journal of Criminal Psychology, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 51-66.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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