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Joshua Phillips Murder Case

Juvenile Delinquency

Joshua Phillips’s Case is known as one of the murder case studies of a 14-year-old murderer who killed an eight-year-old neighbour. Murder is one of the most shocking criminal offences 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 delinquents to some extent commit these criminal offences 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’s 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 the bed frame together and when she tried moving things around, she discovered a cold substance under the bed. On shining her flashlight to find out what it was, she was surprised to see Maddie’s body. Mrs Philips stated that Maddie was Josh’s longtime friend even though Mr Philip did not like Josh hanging out with girls younger than he did. Mrs Philip stated that the husband was bossy and possibly, his intimidating looks and behaviour 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 behaviour, 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, and frustrations, and realise 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 behaviour is that he had a mental problem called bilateral frontal lesions. This psychological state is 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 of Joshua Phillips before his trial by a psychologist found nothing evident to justify his mysterious behaviour, but a neurologist found the mental problem mentioned above. The deterioration of the frontal lobes causes violent acts in the form 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. Since he never wanted to face his father’s abusive act of getting home furious when he found 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’s oppression, which may make them develop specific actions to help them adapt to the oppression of adults. Joshua Phillips’ mother states that he was a good, quiet boy who was emotionally withheld and liked reading and doing things with his parents. He was also good in school, and teachers loved him. He did average 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 behaviour 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 explain Joshua’s action is that children are targets of oppression since they are defenceless, they develop adaptive behaviour to compensate for their helpless nature (Farrington & Loeber, 2012). Joshua killed Maddie because of fear of 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 to 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 put 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).

Personal or family therapy would have prevented Joshua Phillips’s act. Therapy would have taught him how to deal with fear in 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 delinquencies mainly result from the environment in which a child is raised. Parents should be cautious about their children’s activities; by doing this, they can help control juvenile delinquency (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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