Although illegal acts by adolescents are widespread in Japan, serious juvenile violence is very rare. Such violence has a shocking impact on society because it is sharply inconsistent with people’s belief that adolescence is still an age of innocence. The purpose of the present article is to review studies conducted in Japan since 2000 that attempted to classify juveniles who committed seriously violent crimes, and then to propose a theory of three types of juvenile offenders. First is the antisocial type that includes juveniles who were brought up in disadvantaged family environments involving physical abuse or neglect by parents and who engaged in delinquent acts early in childhood. Later, in adolescence, they joined delinquent groups and increased antisocial activities and finally committed serious violence in the process of other offenses such as robbery. The pathological type is a juvenile who is characterized by distorted cognitive styles and unreasonable emotional reactions. They showed severe maladjustment in both school and family, such as school non-attendance and violence within the family, and engaged in serious violence due to deteriorated family relationships. This type also includes juveniles who were preoccupied by violent thoughts of murder or death and committed serious violent acts with incomprehensible motives, e.g., a wish to experience killing a person. Finally, the poor coping type includes juveniles who had neither a record of delinquency nor severe maladjustment problems. Their serious violence was a panic reaction to perceived threats such as pressure by parents to study or a breakdown of romantic relationships.
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