Superpredator theory

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The superpredator theory, often known as the superpredator myth, is a theory in criminology that became popular the 1990s in the United States, positing that there are some impulsive juvenile criminals who are willing to commit violent crimes without remorse.[1] John J. DiIulio Jr., the criminologist and political scientist who came up with the idea,[2] predicted a large increase in youth crime and violence due to superpredators.[3][4] American lawmakers seized on this idea, and implemented tough-on-crime legislation for juvenile offenders across the country, including life without parole sentences.[1]

The theory was criticized when crime significantly decreased in the following years.[4][3] Dilulio has since retracted some of his ideas.[1] There are many alternative explanations to the rise in crime until the 1990s and the subsequent drop. One explanation is the lead–crime hypothesis, which says that the use of leaded gasoline could have caused the high crime rates in the 1980s and 90s.[5] Kevin Drum, an American journalist, argued that the "superpredators" that Dilulio described as impulsive, violent, and conscienceless may have actually had lead poisoning.[6] The theory was also criticized as many people believed the theory was used disproportionately for African-American Juveniles.[7][8][9][10][11]


  1. ^ a b c Boghani, Priyanka. "They Were Sentenced as "Superpredators." Who Were They Really?". PBS Frontline. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  2. ^ Templeton, Robin (1 January 1998). "Superscapegoating". FAIR. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  3. ^ a b Leah, Rachel (2018-04-21). "The "superpredator" myth was discredited, but it continues to ruin young black lives". Salon. Retrieved 2020-03-23.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ a b Vitale, Alex S. (2018-03-23). "Opinion | The New 'Superpredator' Myth". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-03-23.
  5. ^ Doleac, Jennifer L. (2017-06-01). "New evidence that lead exposure increases crime". Brookings. Retrieved 2020-03-24.
  6. ^ Drum, Kevin. "A very brief history of super-predators". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2020-03-24.
  7. ^ "Op-Ed: Why America is still living with the damage done by the 'superpredator' lie". 27 November 2020.
  8. ^ "Analysis: How the media created a 'superpredator' myth that harmed a generation of Black youth".
  9. ^ "Why America is still living with the damage done by the 'superpredator' lie | Opinion".
  10. ^ "They Were Sentenced as "Superpredators." Who Were They Really?".
  11. ^ "How being labeled as a superpredator has impacted a generation of Black and Hispanic men". 20 April 2021.