Deviance in human behavior is one of the major psychological and social concerns in behavioral studies. According to many psychologists, the small signs of deviant behaviors may be a tip of the iceberg to many underlying psychological, social and criminal fantasies in a person. In the right conditions, the person that expresses these deviant behaviors may commit various crimes that are unimaginable to humanity (DeKeseredy,2005). The development of deviance in a person is a slow process that takes place over a long period. Jeffrey Dahmer is one such case where the little deviant behaviors as a child slowly grew to his eventual status of a serial killer. As a child, he exhibited various behaviors that deviated from the norms of the society. In his teenage, the acts became clearer as wrangles between his parents helped in cultivating these behaviors. By the time, he was eighteen years old he had already committed his first murder and covered it up adequately. His indulgence in alcohol abuse and the secretive life helped promote his deviance. When his parents separated, they left him a house where he could express his deviant sexual fantasies and cover them up effectively (Jeffrey Dahmer The Monster Within (Documentary), n.d.). From a psychological perspective, Dahmers deviant behavior could be explained by various theories. The control theory would explain the sociological factors that led to the development Dahlmers deviance while the conduct disorder theory would explain the biological factors that might have influenced the deviance.
The social control theory explains the role of the society in developing the norms by which people of a given community abide. Through social learning, which is promoted through social interactions and socialization, children develop a code of conduct in which they abide in a community. Social interactions play an important role in fostering the development of a persons behavior. The ideals of a society can be instilled in a child directly through punishments and enforcements or indirectly through influencing the behavioral patterns of people close to a person. According to this theory, the moral codes of society are communally owned and developed by the daily social interactions of people in the society. Through socialization, a person can develop self-control and restrain from committing acts that break the societal moral codes (Andrews, 2010). If socialization fails to occur in the correct atmosphere, people fail to restrain themselves from committing deviant activities. In Dahlmers case, his inability to develop strong social bonds that governed his behavior led to the development of deviant fantasies and finally culminated in criminal activities.From his childhood, Dahlmer had a problem interacting with other people in the society. His parents had tried to help him develop close social interactions but failed as he grew up. The lack of a strong social attachment contributed to the development of his strange demonic fantasies. He could not share his experiences and thoughts with anyone therefore; he slowly lost his attachment to the society. In school, he attempted to become a class clown to gain the attention of the students and probably develop a sense of attachment to the society. When these attempts failed to work, his only source of social development was his parents who hardly had any good advice to give to him. The constant quarrels and fights from his parents put a strain on his already damaged socialization ability. As he grew further from any meaningful social sense of belonging, his self-control faded gradually. He indulged in alcoholism at a young age without any intervention in his behavior. When his parents separated and left him alone in their home, he lost all connection to any social beings. This loneliness and disconnection from the society enabled him to experiment his queer sexual cravings. After committing his first murder, he completely let lose the slightest social responsibility that would have forced him to behave reasonably. He later regained his social connection at his grandmothers house and became a member of a church for three years. However, his socialization was limited, as he could never let go of his secrets and interact freely with the society (Jeffrey Dahmer The Monster Within (Documentary), n.d.). When he lost his newly found connection to the society, he lost any societal controls that would govern his behavior. He continued to satisfy his queer cravings hiding from his grandmother. When his grandmother asked him to move out, he completely lost any social connections that would regulate his behavior. He turned into an animal and expressed his animosity on his fellow human beings without a sense of guilt. His crimes were an expressions of his withdrawal from the society, which caused the loss of any social control to govern his actions.
An alternative theory that could explain Jeffreys behavior is the conduct disorder theory. This theory examines deviant behaviors not just as a socialistic affair but a product of the constant psychological strain. The proponent so f this theory view deviance as a psychological disorder just like depression or autism. The major sign of the disease is the lack of empathy, as a person fails to develop a sense of consequence to any behavior towards other people in the society. This condition develops during the infancy of a child and may be genetically influenced. During the onset of puberty, the lack of empathy becomes more visible, and the person is withdrawn from his immediate society. This Disorder is expressed different ways such as substance abuse or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Unless one is keenly observing the behavioral patterns of a person, this disorder can go unnoticed for years (Lahey, 2003). A person suffering from this disorder might continue with his deviant behavior without anyone noticing it. Family instability and social factors may stimulate this disorder and cause an occurrence of deviant behaviors or the development of queer fantasies. Jeffery must have been suffering from this disorder, which went unnoticed until his victims were discovered in his house.
Various factors in his life pointed out the possibility that he might have had this disorder. His mother had a history of anxiety disorders that he could have passed to his son. As a young boy, Jeffery exhibited various deviant behaviors that could have acted as a lead to his condition. His obsession with animals and looking at how they looked from the inside could have helped a person discern his abnormal behavior. Jeffrey Dahmer developed friendly and polite nature that could help him cover up his hidden motives. His parents were lost in their fights and paid no attention to his deteriorating social characteristics. Jeffreys developing sexuality was another indication that his queer behavior was an innate psychological problem. As a teenager, he discovered that he his sexual attraction was towards men and not women. This discovery laid a foundation for his development of queer fantasies. No one in Jeffreys life paid close attention to discover that he was suffering from a conduct disorder. As he carried out his murders, he continually lost the sense of guilt. His fantasies became stronger, and his behavior became stranger as he continually satisfied his queer fantasies. The continuous deterioration of his behavior was an indication that his was a disorder beyond his control (Jeffrey Dahmer The Monster Within (Documentary), n.d.). His activities of cannibalism and necrophilia were a clear indication that he was not in his right mind. Although everyone could agree that he was not in his right mind as he committed the crimes, his insanity did not meet the legal threshold to have him detained in a mental institution. However, it was clear to everyone that Jeffrey Dahmer suffered a mental condition that influenced his behavior.
Jeffrey Dahmers queer behavior has remained a paradox to many people to date. His humility and acting out had convinced many people that he was just an ordinary alcoholic with some small mental issues. He convinced the police of his innocence twice and lived with his neighbors peacefully. The motivation for his actions may have caused a stir in both psychological and religious fields as people sought to understand the motivation to his actions. The truth remains that all people will have speculations of the possible causes of such behavior. However, to avoid the occurrence such incidents people ought to be keen to observe signs that might reveal such hideous characteristics in people. If these characteristic are detected in good time, then the occurrence of such incidents can be stopped for good.
Andrews, D. A., & Bonta, J. (2010). The psychology of criminal conduct. Albany, N.Y.: Lexis Nexis/Anderson Pub.
DeKeseredy, W. S., Ellis, D., & Alvi, S. (2005). Deviance and Crime: Theory, Research and Policy. Burlington: Elsevier Science.
Jeffrey Dahmer The Monster Within (Documentary) [Video file]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xus91WFbr8
Lahey, B. B., Moffitt, T. E., & Caspi, A. (2003). Causes of conduct disorder and juvenile delinquency. New York: Guilford Press.
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