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Joshua Phillips Case

Juvenile Delinquency

Joshua Phillips Case is known as one of the murder case study of a 14-years old murder who killed an eight-year-old neighbor. Murder is one of the most shocking criminal offenses feared by most human beings. It is even more surprising when you realize it is a child behind the crime. Most people do raise specific questions about how a child is capable of such an act and even how they gain such anger within them to let them commit murder. It is incredibly unimaginable that a child can violently harm another person. Most people do not understand how they commit such delinquent acts (May et al., 2014).

Criminologists have tried to come up with theories to help us understand why delinquent to some extent commit these criminal offenses and their delinquent motives while committing these crimes. I decided to choose case number nine, which talks about the shocking murder of Maddie Clifton. In Joshua Phillips Case,  Joshua Phillips a 14-years old killed an eight-year-old neighbor in 1998. The mother found the body of the girl under her son’s bed when she noticed a wet spot. The mother investigated the room after seeing the spot thinking it was a leak in the waterbed. She realized the tape was holding bed frame together and when she tried moving things around, she discovered a cold substance under the bed. On shinning her flashlight to find out what it was, she was surprised to see Maddie’s body. Mrs. Philips stated that Maddie was a longtime friend to Josh even though Mr. Philip did not like Josh hanging out with girls younger than he does. Mrs. Philip stated that the husband was bossy and possibly, his intimidating looks and behavior might have caused Josh to murder Maddie. My psychological theory on this is differential oppression.

My first factor that would help someone understand Joshua’s act of murdering Maddie Clifton is the father’s intimidating bossy behavior, which in this case was going to be combative and abusive towards him being that he had even, warned of hanging out with younger girls. Children often bottle up their feelings, frustrations, and realis them at one time when their anger is perturbed to a level beyond their control. In this case, maybe Maddie triggered the outrage that led to him brutally killing her in a cold blood murder. The second factor that would help in understanding Joshua’s juvenile delinquent behavior is that he had a mental problem called bilateral frontal lesions. This psychological state connected to impaired judgment that may lead to one regretting after committing a particular crime, which in this case is Josh murdering Maddie. An evaluation on Joshua Phillips before his trial by a psychologist found nothing evident to justify his mysterious behavior but a neurologist found the mental problem mentioned above. Frontal lobes deterioration causes violent act in case of anger. The third factor that may help one understand Joshua’s juvenile response is fear (May et al., 2014). Joshua Phillips stated that Maddie got injured while playing and since he never wanted to face his father’s abusive act on getting home furious when he finds Maddie in their house, Joshua procrastinated his fear by merely eliminating Maddie from the puzzle just for his safety.

Having picked differential oppression theory, it helps in understanding Joshua’s juvenile behavior. The approach talks about children oppression, which may make them, develop specific actions to help them adapt to the oppression of adults. Joshua Phillips’s mother states very well that he was a good boy who was quiet, emotionally withheld and liked reading and do things with his parents. He was as well good in school, and teachers loved him. He did averagely well in college receiving several B’s and C’s. From the four basic principles of differential oppression, the first aspect that helps in explaining Joshua’s juvenile behavior is that of abuse from adults. The oppressive nature of his father, in this case, is the possible cause of his mysterious act of killing Maddie.

The other aspect of this theory that can help explaining Joshua’s action is that children being targets of oppression since they are defenseless, they develop adaptive behavior to compensate for their helpless nature (Farrington & Loeber, 2012). Joshua killed Maddie because of fear from his father. In this scenario, he felt vulnerable from his father’s abusive nature and therefore decided to kill Maddie to avoid his father’s wrath. The theory states that children act in very different ways to oppression ranging from passive acceptance, the exercise of illegitimate coercive power and retaliation. Children’s reaction to abuse reinforces adult’s roles as oppressors. It seems that Josh’s form of adapting to his abuse came out as retaliation for his father. Josh feared his father’s reactions puts emphasis on the validity of the differential theory and the concept that children are easy targets of oppression by adults and this led him to life imprisonment (Nelson, 2016).

Joshua Phillips act would have been prevented by may be personal or family therapy. Therapy would have taught him how to deal with fear in some other constructive ways. Parents as well would have a better understanding of how to deal with children especially the father and this could at least eliminate his combative nature, which possibly contributed to Maddie’s murder. I can, therefore, conclude that juvenile deliquesces mainly result from the environment from which a child raised. Parents should be cautious about the children’s activities and by this; they can help in controlling juvenile deliquescence (Nelson, 2016).


Nelson, B. A. (2016). Juvenile Delinquency: Causes, Control, and Consequences. Hauppauge, New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Farrington, D. P., & Loeber, R. (2012). From Juvenile Delinquency to Adult Crime: Criminal Careers, Justice Policy, and Prevention. New York: Oxford University Press.

May, J., Osmond, K., & Billick, S. (2014). Juvenile Delinquency Treatment and Prevention: A Literature Review. Psychiatric Quarterly, 85(3), 295-301. doi:10.1007/s11126-014-9296-4



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