Since the beginning of mankind there has always been the belief that children are a product of their parents, in appearances, mannerisms, vocally, talents, and career choices. Though equally in good and evil, anger and love, tenderness and aggression, have also been given incredible amounts of extensive research and study to either justify the belief or disavow it as a myth or perhaps a coincidence. Dating all the way back to Adam and Eves’ children, Cane and Able. Adam and Eve defied their Father/Creator so it would make sense that Cane Able would also be in some way or everyway the same as their parents. However, Able was kind and obedient, satisfied with his position in the family. Cane, on the hand was totally discontent, argumentative, turned out to be a killer and a deceiver. Quite a difference in comparison and because both boys were raised in near identical method it neither proves nor disproves either side of the argument. This of course was just the beginning of things to come. So, the impending argument is whether or not there can be a definite answer to long term curiosities of both men and women to prove or disprove that children are a product of their parents and children can be socially changed after such a childhood. The question to ask ourselves is; are we raising out children to be serial killers.
Abuse connotes variances in public opinion; therefore, a working definition of each subtype is required. Physical abuse is causing or allowing any nonaccidental physical injury. Sexual abuse is any type of sexual, unhealthy or criminal practice or activity. Although psychological abuse is intentional humiliation causing an emotional conflict. Then there is neglect, failing or refusing to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, emotional nurturing, or health care. Additionally; abuse can also be defined as threatening physical injury, abandonment of a child, even drug addiction during utero.
Deeply traumatic experiences, especially during childhood, can have an even deeper impact in adult life. They can significantly shape an individual’s personality and life choices, spurring exploration into the connection between childhood abuse and criminal behavior. Not all abused children become serial killers, and not all serial killers are victims of child abuse. To be more specific, it is a very small percentage of the abuse population that become serial killers. An estimated 1500 historically as of 2000 (Newton). Even though this seems to be an astronomical number to us, it is actually a very small number when compared to the number of abused kids in the system year after year and the unknown number of unidentified children that go unreported.
According to criminologist Dr. Adrian Raine, both biological and social factors go into the making of a murderer. Both genetics and environment combined work to encourage violent behavior. IN sets of twins a variance in the enzyme monoamine-oxidase-A gene can enhance one to display violent behavior while the other shows no signs at all. However, this alone does not necessarily make a killer. But, genetics, in tandem with environmental factors such as violent childhood experiences, work together to shape an individual. The strength of a person’s character can define a person; abused or not. The choice can be made to resist most behavior. Each individual case and individual strength also carry a great deal of weight. Different combinations of genetics, biology, and the environment create different facets of criminal behavior. Personal traumas can affect behavioral choices. So, the connection between genetics, social environment, and criminal behavior appears to be real, even though it would be in varying degrees. Profiler Jim Clemente said, “Genetics loads the gun, personality and psychology take aim, and experiences pull the trigger”.
Genetics combined with personality, trauma, and the environment we live in drive a serial killer’s behavior. It is impossible to generalize the cause of criminal behavior. It is impossible to generalize the cause of criminal behavior, it would be presumptuous and inaccurate, to many variables. But the tied between child abuse and serial killers cannot be ignored. But the ties between child abuse and serial killers cannot be ignored. Each serial killer has unique traits that have been shaped by their experiences, circumstances, and mindset. So many variables and do few test subjects have shown that the creation of a serial killers in some ways still a long way from a “formula” that is relative to determining a clear concise path to becoming a murderer.
The most traumatic of all serial killers is the one that targets the entire family to be eliminated. These are actually few in numbers but create a horrific trail of slaughter and mayhem. These provide the least amount of sample testing to determine exactly the parameters involved in the creation of such a monster. Too many times the offender is killer before answers can be sought from the individual. In addition, those that survive are not quick to answer questions about their lives and backgrounds as to obtain the more detailed points in their lives. Leaving the only information to be obtained to articles and public records. This leads to trying to develop a clear and concise developmental history with too many unknown factors. Within these articles dwells the emotions and distress of each individual writer. There words are influenced by their emotions and exaggerations of the actual event can be pushed and pulled in their words, thus making the facts distorted and off balance in many cases. Writers that have children tend to over dramatize and fantasize their words to match their feels. These are also those writers that overwrite to sell papers, their writings are sometimes void of needed facts and replaced by glorified imaginary falsehoods. This creates a black hole in the attempt to accurately understand and profile future offenders. These black holes tend to lead profilers in the wrong direction, which could lead to unnecessary loss of life.
The information provided by serial killers is usually hard to verify and because they are in a fantasy type state of mine, they tend to over tell their stories or just plain lie about their pasts and general reality. All criminals are slightly or majorly suffering from insanity of some degree. To commit such atrocities against other human beings cannot in anyway, be considered as sane acts. Therefore, any and all information provided by these subjects need to be scrutinized and verified. Much of the information becomes void and unusable.
In general, the most common form of studying the “Makings of a Serial Killer” has been to study their backgrounds; parents, grandparents, social atmosphere in all areas of growth. To see if changes in homelife, school life, sports, etc., could attribute to the end product. It has long been a belief that certain life triggers have been the most critical factor in producing a serial killer. Things such as the loss of a parent, being bullied by either an adult or a fellow student. Family break-ups have also been believed to be a serious trigger in some way of turning point leading directly to the end result.
It has also been believed that parental child abuse can be directly accredited to turning other “normal” children showing no signs of disturbing behavior, into stone cold killers that cannot seem to quench their thirst for blood, if you will. Likewise, soldiers returning from combat have been shown to, in some instances, turn on a dime into a killing machine. Of course, in all cases, other circumstances and contributing factors have been or could have been a major influence in any or all of the created serial killer. In addition, defects in the brain can also alter the behavioral abilities of individuals as to not allow normal restraint when it comes to human life. However, even in this case, triggers are needed to complete the turn into acting out in a serial killing format.
There are a lot of factors involved with victim choice. It is usually attributed to past angers, rejections, or assault recognition. It is nearly impossible to make general statements of definite this and or that to the cause of such anomalies due to the magnitude of variables in each case. Each individual is made up of endless variables in life growth so this allows us only a best guess using similar common parameters to determine who the victims will be. The longer a serial killer is active the easier it becomes in identifying the pattern of choice. This is done by connecting the similarities found in each victim.
In general, though, he or she, is fulfilling a need through this kill. For example, a man who has been rejected by women would target similar aged or looking women as the object of his aggression. A woman abused of rejected could target men of similar stature or age to fulfill her desires of revenge or proof of worth. There have been cases where an adult child who lost their mother early in life find it necessary to kill the mothers of children to balance his grief with the same loss to others. Women have been known to kill out of jealousy for a man rejected her, under the assumption these other women are standing in her way. There are so many “random” killing sprees where no pattern of why the victims were chosen and the killer was gunned down never to know the reason for their choices. There have been spiritual killings to perhaps fulfill a false prophecy or to stop the coming of Satan. As one can see, there are so many possibilities as to victim choice because the mental parameters are endless.
“Organized offenders” tend to plan a lot of the elements of their attacks with great care and gathering of information long before the attacks take place. They tend to choose victims that are easier prey. Low risk targets are sought out so that the plan can go smoothly. These targets are usually strangers and fit a pre-conceived profile. Their weapons are brought in and removed to maintain the desired control and to help prevent being identified. Organized offenders while acting out a well-orchestrated fantasy have a very detailed pre-conceived sex act and are, in most cases, completed very successfully. Once they complete their fantasy, they tend to end the victims suffering quickly and methodically dispose of the body to avoid being caught. The last action was preplanned and executed with great care. They have also been known to provide information to the police without revealing their secret. Paying close attention to the news is also a way to relive the kill over and over. Collecting trophies from each act is a common way to prove and provide power to the offender.
“Dis-organized offenders” are not as cautious and generally have some mental defect that keeps them from planning their events. They are generally opportunistic and tend to choose their victims during the occasion at hand. They historically choose people already at risk of becoming a victim, such as a prostitute, thereby lessoning the effort required to complete the act. Using weapons found at the scene, they usually leave the weapons and generally don’t care about the scene itself. They engage in the sex act but usually can’t perform well and won’t complete the act. Disfiguring the body is a common act and/or removing a body part, but they are otherwise unconcerned with the body postmortem.
“Mixed offenders” displays traits from both the organized and disorganized offenders. These characteristics are not normally found together since they are so conflicting. These mixed offenders are seriously troubling to investigators and are much harder to profile. The offenders tend to be more conflicted and confused due to the struggle going on in their heads. These individuals are usually more violent and have a tendency to a higher degree of mutilation from the anger in their mind.
The “Tools of the Trade” range from ink pens to semi-trucks. One of the most used is of course the “silent knife”. These range from a small kitchen knife to a butcher knife. Another favorite has been the handgun. Of course, rifles, semi-automatics, even flare guns have been the weapon of choice. Simpler tools are the baseball bats, golf clubs, shovels, garden hoes, and of course the hatchet and ax. Power tools; saws, drills, nail guns, and yes chain saws have been used to fulfill their needs and desires. Victims have been chained to the bumper of a vehicle and drug to obliteration. Run down by trucks and construction equipment. The deranged mind is capable of using nearly anything to complete the task. A common practice by many offenders is using surgical tools to dissect living victims to enhance the pleasure of the kill.
Fifty serial killers who murdered for the primary goal of attaining sexual gratification, termed lust killer was studied to determine the prevalence of childhood abuse. Information regarding the childhood abuse sustained by each killer was obtained primarily from biographical books, newspaper articles and online sites. Abuse being categorized into physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological in 2001. All types of abuse excluding neglect is significantly higher in the serial killer population. The prevalence of physical abuse was 36%, sexual abuse was 26%,and psychological abuse was 50%. While neglect was equally prevalent in the serial killer population as in societal norms 18%.
By definition, someone who kills or murders three or more victims in at least three separate events, with a cooling off period between kills, is considered to be a serial killer. A serial killer is probably under stress before he commits the kill and after the cathartic experience is accomplished, is a type of relief form the stress and possible satisfaction. Reports of sexual and physical abuse during their childhood could result in permanent physical brain damage and emotional instability. The high percentages in serial killers shows enough evidence to lean in the direction that serial killers might not be born to it but driven to it.
However, there are many other events in a person’s life that create conflicting issues and could be the actual trigger that causes the psychotic event responsible for the beginning of killings. One simple failure in a young adult’s life can be so devastating that when combined with abuse could be all that’s needed.
The question; “Are we raising our children to be serial killers?” is a very difficult question to answer. On one hand; we believe that it takes a combination of genetics, environment, trauma, and personality to create a serial killer. Of course, it also requires other various facotrs to be introduced into the formula to complete the monster. Each individual is unique, shaped by individual experiences, circumstances, and mindsets. In Newtons (2000) study, the percentages of abuse were 68%. The other 32% had not experience any abuse at all. So, it is a given that it does not require abuse to become a serial killer. It also has been shown that poor people raising children, middle class raising children, and rich people raising children have the same chance that a child could become a monster of murder.
Now on the other hand, 68% of serial killers were abused in their youth. This has shown to be a huge factor in become unsocial, angry, secluded from society because of the hurt. Physical abuse can cause traumatic brain injuries and altering a normally balanced chemical state into an unbalanced nightmare. In addition, psychological abuse tends to give sound reasoning to becoming a killer. Taking away compassion, sound reasoning, and the ability to love. I would conclude that there is no accurate formula to creating a serial killer. Many inconsistent factors added to consistently recognized factors are needed to develop or possibly to undeveloped the human brain to the point of becoming the monster needed to commit such atrocities.
Taking abusive behaviors out of our society; treating every individual as an equal, and with compassion, would definitely result in lowering the development of serial killers. However, I find no clear reason to believe that all serial killing will ever stop.
- Davies, N. (2019, January 28). From Abused Child to Serial Killer: Investigating Nature vs Nurture in Methods of Murder. Retrieved from https://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/home/topics/violence-and-aggression/from-abused-child-to-serial-killer-investigating-nature-vs-nurture-in-methods-of-murder/.
- Harmening, W. M. (2014). Serial Killers : The Psychosocial Development of of Humanity’s Worst Offenders. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C Thomas. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.wgu.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=880307&site=eds-live&scope=site
- Harmening, W. M. (2010). The Criminal Triad: Psychosocial Development of the Criminal Personality Type. Springfield: Charles C Thomas. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.wgu.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=389210&site=eds-live&scope=site
- Jalava, J., Griffiths, S., & Maraun, M. (2015). The Myth of the Born Criminal : Psychopathy, Neurobiology, and the Creation of the Modern Degenerate. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.wgu.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=1014911&site=eds-live&scope=site
- Miller, L., & Ebooks Corporation. (2012). Criminal Psychology : Nature, Nurture, Culture a Textbook and Practical Reference Guide for Students and Working Professionals in the Fields of Law Enforcement, Criminal Justice, Mental Health, and Forensic Psychology. Springfield, Ill: Charles C Thomas. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.wgu.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=474989&site=eds-live&scope=site
- Mitchell, H., & Aamodt, M. G. (2005). The incidence of child abuse in serial killers. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 20(1), 40–47. doi: 10.1007/bf02806705
- Sohail, K. (2002). Myth of the chosen one : The psychology of serial killers. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com