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Adolescence and Violence: What We May Never Understand

Around the same time 2 weeks ago during the Houston Texas Community College shootings, Nehemiah Griego, 15 years old, shot his family to death in Albuquerque New Mexico. The young man allegedly murdered his family with two rifles (a 22-Caliber and a semi-automatic military style rifle). Griego is currently facing child abuse and murder charges.

While in police custody, Griego confessed to shooting his mother and three younger siblings while they slept in bed a little after 1:00am, while waiting to ambush his father with the semi-automatic military stile rifle upon his return from a late shift at a homeless shelter. Sheriff Dan Houston described the case as “horrific” and stated that he is supportive of the evidence against Greigo in the investigation at this time.

Authorities report that the young man allegedly re-loaded his parent’s rifles, put them in the family van the morning of the slayings, and planned to randomly gun down Wal-Mart shoppers. Reports also state that Griego wandered the family’s church campus (Calvary Albuquerque) the day Sunday school teachers engaged in training’s on dealing appropriately with gun violence. Harrison, a former Police Officer and Calvary Albuquerque security, called the Sheriff’s Department the day of the murders and drove to the family home with Griego, where they met up with authorities. Why are so many youngsters ending up this way?


 Challenges in the system

Troubled children and adolescents often find themselves entangled within the juvenile justice system and most are in need of a range of mental health assessments. Unfortunately, the majority of our society immediately rushes to judgment, assuming acts of violence and aggression are not fueled by a psychiatric illness. While the majority of violent acts are not, some are and they occur in cases where a mental illness is severe or untreated.

In 2008, homicide was the second leading cause of death for youth’s ages 10-24 years old (Youth Violence, 2008). Even more devastating is that individual’s under the age of 25 “accounted for 52.0% of those arrested for murder in 2006″ (as cited in Youth Violence, 2008).

A serious discussion on mental health, violence, and crime is continually needed among families, caregivers, and professionals. Adolescents are developing into adults and their brain is undergoing vast changes. The brain doesn’t fully develop until age 25. As a result, many teens engage in impulsive, immature, and sometimes murderous behaviors.

Such actions are often the result of untreated, severe, or misdiagnosed mental illness, but they can also be the result of an underdeveloped brain. There are often multiple variants that could contribute to senseless killings.


For more information on violent crimes in the United States, visit the Bureau of Justice Statistics. To sign up for my monthly recap newsletter, visit Anchored-In-Knoweldge.

 To read about the consequences of non-treatment, click here


Let’s open up the discussion:

  • What do you think is motivating our youngsters to kill today?
  • Do you think mental illness is the main factor?
  • What do you think about the adolescent brain and under-development being a factor?
  • What are we missing?




Bryan, S.M. (2013). Defense attorney weighs in on case of slain family. Chron. Retrieved January 24, 2013, from

DocuThesis. (2011, September 12). Adolescent development and juvenile justice. Retrieved January 25, 2013 from,

Youth Violence: A report of the Surgeon Generals. Violence and mental health. (2009). Retrieved  January 18, 2013 from,


Creative Commons License photo credit: Matchstick



Adolescence and Violence: What We May Never Understand

Támara Hill, MS, NCC, CCTP, LPC

Támara Hill, MS, NCC, CCTP, LPC, is a licensed therapist and internationally certified trauma professional, in private practice, who specializes in working with children and adolescents who suffer from mood disorders, trauma, and disruptive behavioral disorders. She also provides international consultations and works with some young and older adults struggling with grief & loss or life transitions. Hill strives to help clients to realize and actualize their strengths in their home environments and in their relationships within the community. She credits her career passion to a “divine calling” and is internationally recognized for corresponding literary works as well as appearances on radio and other media platforms. She is an author, family consultant, Keynote speaker, and founder of Anchored Child & Family Counseling. Visit her at Anchored-In-Knowledge or Twitter and Youtube Youtube If you are interested in scheduling a telehealth family consultation, feel free to let me know.

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APA Reference
Hill, T. (2013). Adolescence and Violence: What We May Never Understand. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 31, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Sep 2013
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