Nature Vs Nurture: The Impact Of Childhood Experiences On Serial Killers

Drilling a hole into the top of a man’s skull which he would pour sulphuric acid in (Serial Killers: Nature vs. Nurture, 2019). This process was acted out to make his victim brain dead: almost zombie-like. The victim would typically be dead within the day. Once the victim died, the murderer would dismember the body, disposing of the victim’s parts into vats of acid, except for the skull. (Serial Killers: Nature vs. Nurture, 2019) This was the mind of notorious serial killer Jeffery Dahmer, who murdered for his own impulse and desire. Over time as similar incidents occurred, scientists researched to try to understand why people would commit these horrendous acts of violence. The key linking idea between nearly all serial killers was that they had all experienced a traumatic childhood. It can be said that a serial killer’s childhood can impact their life later on influencing the choices they will make.

What is a Serial Killer? Characteristically serial killers have been identified as a murderer who has taken the lives of three or more people. Serial killers are nearly always driven by their own psychological needs and a majority of the cases it would be the killer’s sexual fantasies that drove their violent tendencies (Higgs, 2012). Another important identifying characteristic about serial killers is that they have a cool down period between each murder. (Allely et al., 2014). The FBI has also made a serial killer profile: “White male, low-middle socioeconomic status, in his 20s or 30s, has a history of childhood abuse or neglect, is sociopathic and/or psychopathic, is a chameleon to his environment and can appear normal” (Higgs, 2012, p. 3). The FBI has also announced that this is just a generalised stereotype and that serial killers come from all walks in life. It doesn’t matter what age, race or gender. Victims of serial killers tend to be complete strangers to the murder with no financial gain connections between the victim and the killer. This typically makes it more difficult for law enforcements to catch these people, with the only linking factor between each murder being symbolic meaning behind each victim. Serial killers usually kill their victims based on the fantasies that they have. (Miller, 2014b) For instance, someone who had a violent and dominant mother may choose victims that resemble their mother and proceed to dominate, and kill the victim (Miller, 2014b). Normally before the murder they would proceed to make his victim beg him to let them live by putting their life in the murderer’s hands, making him feel authoritative which can put them in a type euphoria mind set. This can cause sexual arousal at the fact that in his mind he is getting revenge for all that his mother did. Once dead, the murderer might participate in necrophilia behaviours on the body. 

There are many different sub categories of serial killers as that each case is personally specific to the murders upbringing however, there are key aspects of each murder that links them to particular patterns and motives that can help to identify who they are and why they committed this murder (Miller, 2014b). For instance, a sadist-masochist serial killer gains pleasure from either giving or receiving pain. They would typically engage in self-mutilation either body, mind or gentile this includes autoerotic asphyxiation. Serial Killers who show signs of sadism characteristically had an aggressive parental figure and/or had been raised by a dominate and sexual mother (Miller, 2014b). Women serial killers tend to have very different motives to men as that they seek monetary gain or historic attention (Miller, 2014b). Typically, they chose their victims to control them and/or seek revenge, they are more likely to use poisons then weapons that require strength as that since their victims are normally people that they know like their husband or children and poisons requires no physical strength to kill said people. Female serial killers don’t receive the same kind of behaviour profiling as men as that a majority of female serial killer cases are characterised as ‘comfort oriented killers’. This is where these women kill their family members for either revenge or a financial gain.

One key traumatic experience most serial killers experience is child abuse. Child abuse can be well-defined as an act or multiple acts of violence that will always harm the victim (Serial Killers: Nature vs. Nurture, 2019). The person that most times would be abusing the child is his/her caregiver or parent: this parental figure can also threaten harm towards the child which can also be traumatic for the child. In cases of physical abuse, the child may be victim of biting, hitting, pushing, kicking, burning, genital mutilation, beating and being held underwater (Higgs, 2012). People who were exposed to this behaviour from their parental figures typically have a stunted growth in their own personal development as a consequence of the abuse they received as a child. To take into account children who receive physical punishment from a parent, such as spanking, can also have a physiological impact on the child receiving the punishment (Higgs, 2012), however whether or not it was traumatic enough to say that these people will later become serial killer’s is still debated discusses that children have to experience. Child abuse affects children because it impacts their cognitive skills at a young age basically stunting them of any personal development. Usually consisting of poor emotional skills, most likely causing anti-social behaviours, these cases were more predominate in children who are not only exposed to acts of abuse preformed on themselves by a parental figure but also domestic violence of one or more of these figures.

Children can also be victims of psychological abuse. Psychological abuse can be characterised as a behaviour that would interfere with a child’s mental development and their awareness of their own meaning. Typically, emotional abuse is combined with another form of abuse as it is a consequence of these other forms. People who were emotionally abused as a child tend to have low self-esteem, thoughts of suicide, depression and anxiety. For Instance, Infamous serial killer John Wayne Gacy was emotional attacked by his biological father as that his father viewed him as a homosexual, because of the affection he showed towards his mother and sister. He would be constantly called “mamma’s boy” or a “little sissy” due to his father’s own homophobia and as a result Gacy murdered homosexuals. 

Children can be exposed to other forms of abuse, such as sexual abuse. Sexual abuse of children can be characterised as sexual exploitation of offspring; participating in the rape, prostitution, pornography or molestation of children under the age of consent. Children who are exposed to these experiences, without appropriate relations with parents or caregivers typically do not understand “normal” interactions. They find it difficult to intergrade into society especially when trying to begin a romantic relationship. This usually leads to frustration as they are confused and since they have not developed the correct coping mechanisms they can become violent towards their partners. However, this up bringing doesn’t always mean that you are destined to become Murderous as discusses that these events can trigger mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, lack of self-confidence etc. but for these experiences to influence these people to commit these crimes they typically need to endure a traumatic experience that would destabilise their mental cognitive stability over time.

Children can also be subjected to neglect: either emotional or physical by their parental figure or caregiver. Neglect isn’t necessarily seen as a traumatic experience for kids but it can greatly impact them since it negatively effects their psychological growth. This is because humans need interactions with one another to mature with healthy social skills (Higgs, 2012). Children that are abandoned in the early stages of their life can later develop personality disorders, anti-social traits and have violent tendencies as they age. The tell-tale signs of neglect between males and females vary greatly as each gender is influenced by the societal norms. For instance, females are typically more prone to mental disorders like body dysmorphic, depression and anxiety whereas males tend to show themselves as aggressive and violent towards peers.

This was the case for serial killer Jeffery Dahmer who was neglected by his parents at an early age with evidence indicating that he was sexually abused by his neighbour. As Dahmer got older he was more aware of his parent’s arguments, paired with his traumatic surgery sowed the seeds for Dahmer’s Violent trends as evidence has shown that people who have been abuse and neglected tend to find comfort in their own fantasies (Serial Killers: Nature vs. Nurture, 2019). Evidence has also indicated that the neglect of a parental figure or caregiver paired with additional trauma; as seen in Dahmer’s case, was crucial to the evolution of their later murders. Dahmer’s victims were only men in their late to early twenties because at a young age Dahmer had homicidal homosexual fantasies however since he felt often neglected by his parents he kept any thoughts to himself, because of this rejection; many not just Dahmer, delved into his own indulgences and was unsure of who he was as person (Serial Killers: Nature vs. Nurture, 2019) it can be indicated at that serial killers who have sexual deviant fantasies have an unquenchable need for inflicting terror and engulfment towards the primary accessory that their need involves around, in Dahmer’s case was men.

In summary as indicated by the evidence presented during this essay, it could be said that a serial killer’s childhood will impact their life later on, influencing their motivations later on in their lives, since someone’s childhood is extremely influential. This is because as discussed above a child’s brain is still under development and anything can change the way someone thinks and acts. For instance, in Gacys instance it was learned behaviour from his father, that caused him to rape and kill homosexuals as his father was very homophobic. (Higgs, 2012) From this case studies we can begin to understand the way people think and act especially as it greatly reflects weak points in our society. 

16 December 2021
Your Email

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and  Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.

close thanks-icon

Your essay sample has been sent.

Order now
Still can’t find what you need?

Order custom paper and save your time
for priority classes!

Order paper now