Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What makes a killer?

Close examination of serial killers reveals many similarities in their lives, personalities, and attributes. To what extent is their predilection to violence genetic, and to what extent influenced by their circumstances? In other words: nature or nurture?
A checklist to identify a potential serial killer might include: suffering abuse from a parent; an alcoholic parent; an underprivileged childhood; witnessing abuse of or by a parent. However none of these things, or even all of them combined, inevitably create a serial killer.
It is generally accepted that a susceptibility to alcoholism is genetic. However alcoholism itself is not. Same with violent tendencies. If a parent is abusive, it is likely the child will grow up with violent tendencies. But why? Because of genetic programming, or because abuse becomes normality to them through experience?
Either way, it is a very large jump from abuse to killing somebody. What causes somebody make that jump?
There is a disease called Munchausen's Syndrome, and Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy. The syndrome starts when somebody seeks attention and sympathy by faking or exaggerating symptoms of an illness. It sometimes, but not always, moves on to the "Proxy" stage: when somebody causes illness or injury to a third party (usually a child in their care). Sometimes they "save" their victim, bringing praise upon themselves. Sometimes the victim dies, resulting in sympathy and more attention for the perpetrator. Beverley Allitt is a prime example of this type of killer: she started by wearing false casts on her arm and complaining of back pains, then moved on to cutting herself with broken glass, and finally ended up as a nurse killing her child patients.
My take on this syndrome, particularly in Allitt's case, is a lack of attention. Allitt was one of four children, and was an overweight adolescent. Under certain circumstances, getting attention in any way possible can become a driving force. But don't take this to mean that I'm blaming her parents, society, or anybody other than herself. There was obviously something very broken inside her that caused her to take the conditions dished out to her and warp them into a drive to kill children.
A disease such as that is only one explanation for why somebody kills. Many serial killers are acting out bizaare fantasies or trying to kill an aspect of themselves or somebody they think has wronged them. Men who kill prostitutes may be impotent. Men who kill blonde women may have been scorned by a blonde woman in early adolescence. Men who kill gay men may be repressing their own homosexual urges. Who knows?
That's what makes the whole area such a fascinating study. Nobody knows!


Anonymous said...

I think every killer has some past experience with someone who's similar to the victim.


Aidan said...

good evening my love,
nature or nurture definately a combination of both, possible genetic predisposition to violent acts, "sham rage" we were talking about the other day... But a abused back ground surely wont help the situation.

What about working with the public.... does that justify homocide.. More a cull than murder.

Stace said...

Working in customer service certainly justifies going on a killing spree. Not serial killing, though. Subtle difference! :)

donn the escapeon said...

I saw a doc on Munchie it was very scary..all of that narcissism to the max..what chemical implosion occurs in the brain to allow that delusional thinking to take over and beat your sense of reality to smithereens??
I imagine that in the future classrooms will be monitored by camera and any kids that exhibit anything on a certain list will be instantly whisked away to begin chemical treatments...scary..but there is going to be a lot of genetic engineering going on...I wonder if any of those terrorists suffer from some form of crippling narcissism..their desire to be famous and magical thinking about another world full of virgins awaiting them...they lose touch with reality..and there are so many of them...yikes

Kris Michael Reaney said...

seriasl killers have three main characteristics.

1, bed wetting
2, abuse of small animals
3, fire starting

One in eight abuse victims become abusers. Not all of them.

Also a killing spree is killing a group of people over an extended period of time a serial killer is someone that has claimed more than three people.