Myth No. 10: Most murders are committed by people killing friends or family members.

A majority of murders involve strangers or people with whom the killer is not well acquainted. Fewer than a fourth of all murders involve family members or friends, as shown in Table II. In particular, only 12.5 percent of victims are members of the same family. Of the 38.4 percent called "unknown" in Table II, it is likely that relatively few of the murderers are relatives or friends of the victims.

The notion that most murders are committed by friends killing friends (or family members) is based on a flawed study and biased descriptions of the study�s findings.67 The myth has been reinforced by three other factors. First, the media sensationalizes multiple-death family murders, exaggerating public perception about their frequency. Second, murders involving family members or friends have been a declining share of all murders, and perception has lagged behind the facts (murder within the family was one-fourth of all murders in 1974 - twice its current level). Third, many sociologists and criminologists tend to characterize criminal violence as impulsive, irrational and unrelated to consequences. The third factor fosters the belief that much criminal violence occurs simply because someone becomes angry at home and the means of lethal violence (a firearm) is handy. Neither logic nor evidence supports this belief.

"Only 12.5 percent of murder victims are members of the killer�s family."

© 1996 NCPA