Understanding Homicide Through Durkheimian, Biological Positivism And Adaptation Theories

Homicide can be defined as the killing of a human being carried out by another with or without intent to kill them. Homicide is varying in natures with different types of it occurring under different circumstances, the most common form is murder, followed by manslaughter. Other forms of homicide are inclusive of; infanticide and dangerous driving, some involving duress at times. In accordance to this, there are a series of different theories that serve to help the individual understand these types of homicide and reasons for it, they include the Adaptation theory, Durkheimian theory and Biological positivism. These theories allow the individual and investigator to better understand not only the concept of homicide but as to why it has incurred. This essay will argue and support such theories in order to better explain and further understand the effects, causes and outcomes of Homicide in a logical, cohesive manner.

A serial killer by definition is, “a person who commits the unlawful homicide of at least two people carried out by the same person (or persons) in separate events occurring at different times .The creation of a serial killer starts from as early as childhood. Although these killers tend to act out in their 20s and 30s their fantasies and desires for these acts usually begin in adolescence and sometimes in childhood which develops over their lifespan. These killers have common characteristics within their upbringing, as they have been abused physically or sexually by parents or guardians or were even sons/daughters of prostitutes and were stereotyped as illegitimate children. They may have a strong family history of psychological disorders, drug abuse or legal problems within the family, although this is seen within the characteristics and family traits of the killer it is not always the reasoning as to why they acted out, some grew up in stable homes, with both parents and no reports of any history of abuse. The children who become serial killers in the future have a common aggressive, stereotyped and repetitive pattern to the acts they carry out. Furthermore they are seen to lie, set fires, destroy property that isn't theirs,and can be often cruel to other kids, they show elements of bedwetting and cruelty towards animals predicting their antisocial behaviour for years to come. Many have especially enjoyed such act of animal cruelty from an early age which at times can turn to sexual abuse towards the creature. Most of these people grow up shy, alienated, lonely and tend to be highly sensitive with feelings of being unloved by family, rejected and neglected by people around them creating a hatred towards specific people or the world in general. In some cases the perpetrator has been described as socially outgoing which contradict their inner feelings, these people have learned how “to play the game.” Most of these people would meet the benchmark for conduct disorders as children and narcissistic, antisocial or schizoid personalities as an adult, along with previous record for arrest associated with other crimes, while a select few remain under the radar until their killings are discovered. A study performed by Johnson and Becker (1997) in the0 form of past cases where nine 14-18 year old males were referred to the authors for an evaluation after committing violent but non sexual offences, these teenagers expressed repetitive and explicit fantasies of sexual mutilation, torture and murder, dating back to their younger selves and increasing these thoughts overtime, the youths described them as exciting and arousing with the types of fantasies being reported as somewhat similar between the nine teenagers with some already performing them on animals or pets with. This study confirmed that the sadistic fantasies of serial killers often start within childhood or adolescence and can be used as a main factor in identifying potential killers.

Homicide rates are positively and negatively linked to divorce, birth and marriage. To further understand and support this statement I will be looking at, and analysing David Lester’s article on Durkheimian Theory of Suicide and Homicide in Australia and New Zealand. Emile Durkheim argued that social order was organised through similarity and social normality which were enforced through retributive sanctions. However, in a state without norms, or anomie, this would lead to too insufficient moral constraints and no limit to individual desires. Durkheim highlights the consequences of rapid social change, and emphasises the importance of societal norms in regulating individual goals and pursuits. Anomie is the lack of the usual social or ethical standards in an individual or group and Durkheim concluded that it meant the breakdown of a sense of shared moral order and the collective or individual loss of social stability. It is most commonly associated with murder. Through David Lester’s article we are able to further understand that the link between homicide and the theory is that divorce and marriage are both positively linked to homicide in Australia but is the complete opposite in New Zealand, however suicide is only positively linked with divorce in New Zealand, while the results in New Zealand conformed with the Durkheim Theory, the results in Australia did not, thus making it clear this theory is only true within certain countries and societies like New Zealand, and can only be supported so much as a strong theory within understand a serial killers reasoning towards acting out a form of homicide. Durkheim theory is further criticized in a way that although he does to some extent explain why some societies may have a higher rate of deviance and crime than others he does not contemplate or consider why individuals or groups such as gangs commit crimes while others don’t, although commiting crime is seen in every society, a large portion of the population has no links or ties to crime itself. Durkheim further makes matters more complicated by applying his constricted definition as well limiting homicide to ‘unpremeditated murder’ that is a simple intent for homicide without creating an aggravation in circumstances such as prearrangement or premeditated. The definition allows Durkheim to preserve that acts of homicide can be seen as inseparable from passion and persistence. He proclaimed that 'planned homicide' is the wrongdoing of mixed nature since it in some cases it relies upon different variables than those that determine homicide. For example, the 'thought processes' behind burglary can incite premeditated homicide; in other words, can be a moderately calm and determined act situated fundamentally toward financial increase, a demonstration that may include generally little energy. This line of thinking drove Durkheim to the conclusion that the evolution of the pattern of manslaughter cannot subsequently be best seen through the varieties of planned homicide; its general direction is better brought out by the curve of unpremeditated homicide. In this manner Durkheim's hypothesis of crime is a theory of unpremeditated homicide, not homicide in general terms. Past this, Durkheim insinuated the presence of two sorts of unpremeditated homicide: altruistic and anomic

The Adaptation theory is another useful theory in further understanding what causes someone to kill another human being purposely as a serial killer tends to have a motive for their actions depending on the scenario or situation. This is derived from Russil Durrant critical analysis of the Homicide Adaptation Theory (HAT) which was created by Joshua Duntley and David Buss who propose that humans possess a number of evolved adaptations for the desire to kill and that people have developed particular, psychological systems within their brain that determine for themselves if crime or a non-lethal, versatile situation will be executed. They suggest that these instruments are actuated by a delimited situation, and that they are intended to create the passing of the same species. It was designed to explain and to understand why individuals sometimes kill one and another and humans possess. Adaptations for homicide have been chosen for people who had those adaptations were reproductively more effective than people who didn't in similar situations. It is suggested that people have various distinctive mental adaptations for murder, that have developed to take care of explicit versatile issues. These incorporate adjustments for coalitional murdering, the murdering of biological and stepchildren, the killing of intimate partners, and the executing of men by other men. In spite of the fact that HAT can be seen and assessed as a general transformative hypothesis of manslaughter, it is really various explicit theories concerning the developmental causes of mental systems for various kinds of murder. It is contended that under certain conditions, the murdering of conspecifics would have expanded survival and conceptive achievement and subsequently would have been chosen for. There are three main sources of proof in support of HAT. To start with, it is noticed that numerous species kill their conspecifics in explicit conditions and much of the time this mirrors the development of explicit adjustments for killing. The inhuman murdering of mates by female dark widow spiders, the slaughtering of newborn children by male lions and langur monkeys, and coalitional inter-group killings within chimpanzees groups. This proof offers help for the possibility that particular adjustments for executing could have advanced in within human beings. Furthermore homicide would have been a typical event among ancestral human populaces and consequently mental components in charge of manslaughter would have been 'obvious' to normal determination. That is, murder is well on the way to happen in those settings where there are transformative focal points in executing. Precedents incorporate the homicide of unfaithful life partners by their partners, the killings of rival males in disputes, and the homicide of disconnected posterity by step-guardians. the presence of murderous ideation, specifically, individuals' dreams of slaughtering others. In an investigation including 762 college undergraduates psychology students, Kenrick and Sheets (1993) found that around 70% of members detailed having at any rate one homicidal dream or fantasy, with men having fundamentally more murderous dreams than females. Also, men's murderous fantasies in this investigation were bound to be identified with 'an individual danger' and include outsiders contrasted with females. HAT is a key theory in offering the promise of providing new causal insights into murder previously undiscovered and unexplained by prior theories of homicide.

Biological Positivism is also another useful and my final theory in understanding not only homicide but specifically mixed-sex partnered homicide. Elizabeth A. Gurian who wrote an article on mixed-sex partnered homicide looking distinctively into the sociological and psychological aspects. Biological Positivism came about during period of enlightenment and stems from the concept that biologically, the perpetrator had no free will in committing homicide. It relies on scientific analysis of the physical body, particularly the brain and suggests that criminality is either partially or completely pre-determined. There are three foundations to biological positivism which include genetics, neuropsychology and evolutionary biology. Genetics explores the hereditary role of genes in producing crime and deviant behaviour and is used to explain the prominence of offending within families. The importance of genetics is not questioned, rather it is to what extent genes interact with external environmental factors. Neuropsychology investigates the interaction between physical properties and brain behaviour. Crucial variables towards offending are argued to be brain structure, neuro-chemical composition and effects of injury. It is a perspective that challenges the concept of free will and promotes more deterministic behavioral patterns. Lastly evolutionary biology is prevalence of male aggression as an evolutionary trait from which we cannot escape. With ideas such as competitive aggression stemming from ‘mating rights’,these traits result in violent competition with other males, sexual aggressiveness and indifference towards non-offspring.

Overall these three theories best support not only the reasoning towards the acts of a serial killer but as to what made them carry out such an act. With each theory linking to different types of homicide and further links them more so different aspects of homicide. 

16 December 2021
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