Personal space: The evil that men, women and children do

Meg Barker considers news depictions of children as victims and perpetrators of ‘evil’ acts.
The popular press often focuses on crimes involving children – whether as victims or perpetrators. In recent years coverage has frequently reached ‘moral panic’ proportions in the UK, with perpetrators of crimes being labelled as monstrous and irredeemably evil. But crimes involving children are actually relatively rare. Can a psychological perspective help us to understand why such cases continue to attract such high levels of interest and emotion? I will draw in particular on two areas of psychological literature: theories of representations of evil, and the feminist psychological research on women and crime. Is our reaction to so-called evil acts tainted by the popular notion of childhood as a time of innocence?

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