Social And Psychological Factors That Influence Serial Killers

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While research suggests that psychological factors may provide the necessary prerequisites for psychopathic tendencies, social factors, such as family life and upbringing, are also essential contributors to shaping the minds of disturbed individuals. According to Hestie Barnard Gerber, psychological abuse from parents, such as excessive humiliation and discipline, works to desensitize children, causing them to “grow up devoid of empathy for others” (Gerber, 2013). This is interesting as it connects to the stereotypical characteristic of killers being remorseless and cold, which allows them to fulfill horrific acts.

Gerber also points out that exposure to violent sexual events and punishments, for example, witnessing sexual violence between parents or being punished for masturbation, usually leads to isolation and the fabrication of “violent fantasies that continue into adulthood” (Gerber, 2013). These recurring horrid fantasies generally revolve around violation and control, consuming their thoughts and ultimately compelling them to commit murders. In connection to this, Jeffrey Dahmer would dissect dead animals and even decapitated his own dog, as a way of fulfilling his gruesome fantasies of control. According to Bowie State University, exposure to alcohol and substance abuse has also been known to impact serial killers, as it could lead to many disorders and behavioral problems (Bowie State University, 2018).

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This connects to Jeffrey Dahmer, as he struggled with drinking as a teenager and soon became an alcoholic, which resulted in the removal from his college and discharge from the army. For serial killers, the prevalence of physical abuse was 36%; sexual abuse was 26%; and psychological abuse was 50% (Mitchell & Aamodt, 2005); psychological abuse during the upbring was found to lead to torturing the victim, physical abuse was found to relate to careless acts after the the murder was committed, such as leaving the body at the scene of the crime, and sexual abuse was found to lead to overkill and necrophiliac tendencies.

All three types of abuse appear to relate to the rape/lust typology, which could explain many of the necrophiliac tendencies of famous serial killers, and could arguably be explained by the individual’s need to feel in control. This can relate to both Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy- who were both bullied growing up and therefore isolated from the rest of their classmates. After analyzing the phenomenon of serial killing, another recurring event in the past life of a serial killer is isolation during childhood and teenage years; indeed, “most serial killers admitted that during their teenage years they avoided parties and social events” (Bonn, 2014).

Serial killers’ families tend to be nomadic, especially during childhood. As a consequence, the child can end up not having meaningful relationships and this often results in the incapacity of forging such relationships. Moreover, episodes of bullism occur frequently during the serial killer’s childhood, for this reason, the child develops anti-social tendencies. These anti-social tendencies are characterized by traits such as: failure to feel remorse or guilt, disregard for the right of others and laws, and a tendency to display violent behaviour. Jeffrey Dahmer’s family moved several times during their son’s childhood; this affected his personality, he became disengaged, tense and friendless.

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Social And Psychological Factors That Influence Serial Killers. (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 12, 2024, from
“Social And Psychological Factors That Influence Serial Killers.” Edubirdie, 29 Jun. 2022,
Social And Psychological Factors That Influence Serial Killers. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 12 Jun. 2024].
Social And Psychological Factors That Influence Serial Killers [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 29 [cited 2024 Jun 12]. Available from:

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