Homicide is the third leading cause of deaths for girls aged 11 to 14 years and the second leading cause of death for girls aged 15 to 18 years. However, few studies examine the contextual issues of adolescent femicide, especially among 11- to 14-year-old victims.
To obtain quantitative and contextual information about adolescent femicide, and to compare the context of femicide in younger vs older adolescents.
Data from the North Carolina medical examiner were analyzed for all 11- to 18-year-old female homicide victims during 1990 to 1995. Police interviews were conducted for 1993 to 1995 cases to determine context, the relationship of victim and perpetrator, and criminal histories.
There were 90 victims; 63 were aged 15 to 18 years, 55 were killed with firearms, and 40 were behind in school. Of 37 femicides for which law enforcement interviews were conducted, the most common contexts were altercation (n = 9), broken or desired relationship (n = 8), reckless behavior with a firearm (n = 6), retaliation (n = 5), and drug related (n = 3). Most perpetrators were men (89%; n = 33), were older than their victims (mean age difference, 8 years), and had criminal records (59%; n = 21). Seventy-eight percent of victims (n = 29) were killed by an acquaintance or intimate partner.
Femicide contexts differed by age. Younger adolescents (aged 11-14 years) were more likely to be killed by a family member in the context of an argument than by an intimate partner or acquaintance in the context of a broken relationship or reckless behavior with a firearm. Many victims were engaged in high-risk behaviors, including dropping out of school, running away from home, using drugs, and dating much older men with criminal records. Intervention specialists targeting high-risk female adolescents should be aware that this population may also be at increased risk of femicide.