Murder-Suicides Perpetrated by Adolescents: Findings from the National Violent Death Reporting System

Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2020 Apr;50(2):534-544. doi: 10.1111/sltb.12607. Epub 2019 Nov 27.


Objective: Murder-suicide is a rare and especially tragic form of violence. Nascent literature has characterized murder-suicide perpetrated by adults, but no study has focused on adolescents who perpetrated murder-suicide.

Method: This study evaluated all cases of murder-suicide perpetrated by persons under age 21 who were included in the National Violent Death Reporting System, and categorized each incident using Joiner's perversion of virtue framework of murder-suicide.

Results: Forty-seven incidents of murder-suicide perpetrated by adolescents were identified, representing 56 victims. Most cases did not have sufficient information to be categorized within a particular perversion of virtue. Among the 20 cases who did have sufficient detail to be categorized, incidents were identified as perversions of self-control (n = 11), justice (n = 8), and mercy (n = 1). Most perpetrators were male, and the majority of victims were female. Additional victim, perpetrator, and incident characteristics are described.

Conclusions: Our findings extend previous work by employing a coding system based on a theoretically derived framework for categorizing "genuine" murder-suicide and related behavior among adolescents. This study also characterized the nature of this complex and tragic sequence of behavior among adolescents, who are at elevated risk of suicide, and who may benefit from prevention efforts that effectively address means safety, suicidality, and intimate partner violence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Homicide
  • Humans
  • Intimate Partner Violence*
  • Male
  • Sex Distribution
  • Suicide*
  • Violence
  • Young Adult