Essay Example: Psychology of a Serial Killer

Published: 2022-09-28
Essay Example: Psychology of a Serial Killer
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Psychology Violence Abuse
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1428 words
12 min read

Walters et al, (2015) argue that serial killer refers to an individual who murders three or more persons in a minimum of three distinctive occurrences, with a "cooling off period" between kill, when under stress, serial killers establish a type of cycle during which they murder other humans. After the cathartic experience is attained, they feel temporarily released of this pressure. The question as to whether or not a man encoded at birth to lead a life of crime is a concern that has been hotly debated for decades. The high interest in this question is motivated by a large number of serial killers and in the portion to the scandalous landscape of these crimes. Establishing underlying factors to which a person would be part of committing several murders has tabled suggestions comprising many aspects of the life of a perpetrator. Some urge that all babies are born inherently good, and during their early childhood experience, they develop for either worse or better, others believe that it is impossible. However, with examples of most famous serial kills Ted Bundy, criminal psychologists have them as an ideal example to support the notion that many serial killers developed their character from their abusive and unstable childhood experiences.

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The most significant period of development for the limbic system in during childhood that involving learning acceptable norms and values of one's community from their family me members majorly parents. Limbic system plays various functions ranging such as controlling an individual emotionally, storing his/ her memory and helping in learning new information. Moreover, Tielbeek et al. (2016) assert that limbic system works together with other systems including the amygdala, the hippocampus, the thalamus, and, the cingulate to aid one to be an active member of society, engage in a relationship, and be a well-rounded individual. Many serial killers acknowledge having been abused with violence, humiliation, neglect among other abuse at they childhood life. These focal abnormalities in early-onset schizophrenia tend to be more localized to limbic regions. An ideal example of a serial killer that proves that disturbing childhood encounter contributes more to serial killing nature than genetics elements is the case of Ted Bundy. Violent grandmother nurtured Ted Bundy and his mother Eleanor Louise Cowell who has and his "mentally unstable" after father left the family when he realized that Bundy was born out of the wedlock. Despite Bundy being an intelligent child, he had a problem of associating with people. Therefore, the lack of a classic family structure and an abnormal childhood encounter functioned as one of the major contributors to the serial killing nature of Bundy's personality disorders.

Similarly, research that was conducted back in the 1940s found that withdrawal of parents, divorce, and, unusual punishment among others, to be a consistent trait among a majority of the childhoods of psychopaths. Early studies that date back to as early as 1943 "found parental deprivation, erratic punishment, marital separation, to be common characteristics of the childhoods of psychopaths" (Hollerbach, 2018). A continuous experience of this kind of childhood challenge can result in extensive psychological damage. Evidence for a distributed childhood is limited in psychopaths due to the fact a troubled childhood is self-reported.

One of the significant elements contributing to the development of nature of serial killing is abuse faced in the childhood of the killer. Childhood abuse has been held accountable to varying level of blame in the event of serial killing. According to research conducted by Resssler and Shachtman in 1992, reported "over 40 percent of the [serial] murderers reported being physically beaten and abused in their childhoods. More than 70 percent said they had witnessed or been part of sexually stressful events when young..." (p. 85). If a child was bullied and beaten by their parent, they are most likely to mimic that behavior in adulthood. They learned that their parents had no remorse for their actions and would behave out violently against others with complete negligence to the safety and wellbeing of their victim.

Similarly, if a child is conditioned incorrectly to brutal beatings with no valid ground, they will ultimately develop an inability to learn from punishment. In other words, they will show a very significant reaction to "punishment-related stimuli." This explains as to why persons with ASPD, more particularly psychopathy, display behaviors such as the disdain to the law and safety of others. By turning cold-hearted and deviance to law and security of others, present them with an opportunity to experience the same pleasure their parents felt when they exercised power and control over them (serial killer) at their tender age. That is why some of the serial killers go to the extent of recording a tape of their victim screaming helplessly for pain, which they use to enhance their imaginary when there is lack of victim to 'play 'with or use the record to improve their skills to advance his cruelty to a future victim.

Moreover, inability to comply with the social norms and value expressed by rules and regulations imposes a particular behavior is the serial killers' other psychical aspect. These deviance actions and refractory to any social institution such as educational centers constant creates a challenge in their group attachment. Their family background is, in turn, most repeatedly problematic family. Hence, their anamneses demonstrate structural deficits such as the absence of a parent due to death, divorce, abandonment, functional insufficiencies when family structure is in place but lacks skills, concern or interest to educate the child because of its financial challenge and culture levels, criminal alertness (Hoffmann, & Dufur, 2018). Without consideration, such conditions are inescapable such children from such families adds to a significant number of crimes such as serial killing. However, families with high financial abilities and culture level are not excluded, which consider child's learning experience is conducted by itself removing control and concern over the child interaction with the surrounding, utilizing at most, some infrequent corrections and regulations only when a child demonstrates behavior that surpass the parameters. It is an undisputed perception that when there is incorrect attention to rules, to the person's system of daily life particularly during the early years slows the maladjustments established itself.

Some children can withstand such traumatic experience and abuse without recording any long-term psychological damage. Nevertheless, a significant number of children find it hard to endure. Those who are unable to tolerate, consequently fail to establish a suitable "attachment" -- the emotional bond molded between a child and his parents. According to Duft, Stafford, and, Zeanah (2016), when that bond lacks, these children may never learn to have trust in any individual. Somewhat depends on social interaction with others, establish an imaginary world that becomes a source of satisfaction, and, turn inward. Upon changed they respond aggressively and never feel remorse for the damage they cause


The lack of emotional development in early stages of child development is a serious risk factor in defining whether an individual will grow to a psychopath as an adult. Psychopath creates a conducive environment for one to become a serial killer. An essential consideration in the fight against serial killing is to identify the negative aspects of the daily life of children and develop awareness of their surroundings. Therefore, for any approach considered useful in the fight against this crime, it should accommodate family and school education, through the inclusion of cultural activities.


Duft, B., Stafford, B. S., & Zeanah, C. H. (2016). Attachment theory is an important way to conceptualize how infants and young children begin to understand and develop relationships. Early problems developing attachment to a caregiver may cause later problems with developing and sustaining healthy relationships. When the development of attachments is impeded by insufficient caregiving, children may develop an attachment disorder. Although attachment disordered behavior has been described in the literature since the 1950s, there was almost no .... Handbook of Preschool Mental Health: Development, Disorders, and Treatment, 219.

Hoffmann, J. P., & Dufur, M. J. (2018). Family Social Capital, Family Social Bonds, and Juvenile Delinquency. American Behavioral Scientist, 62(11), 1525-1544.

Hollerbach, P., Johansson, A., Ventus, D., Jern, P., Neumann, C. S., Westberg, L., ... & Mokros, A. (2018). Main and interaction effects of childhood trauma and the MAOA uVNTR polymorphism on psychopathy. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 95, 106-112.

Tielbeek, J. J., Al-Itejawi, Z., Zijlmans, J., Polderman, T. J., Buckholtz, J. W., & Popma, A. (2016). The impact of chronic stress during adolescence on the development of aggressive behavior: A systematic review on the role of the dopaminergic system in rodents. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews.

Walters, B. K., Drislane, L. E., Patrick, C. J., & Hickey, E. W. (2015). Serial murder: Facts and misconceptions. The National Courts and Sciences Institute.

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