Underlying Causes That Can Create a Serial Killer

Underlying Causes That Can Create a Serial Killer

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Serial killing is a fascinating subject that has inspired multiple television shows and books over the years. Over the centuries, numerous incidences of serial killings have been reported and documented in different parts of the world. Locusta, best known for killing emperor Claudius of Rome during the first century, is regarded as the first documented serial killer. In the US, serial killings have been recorded from as early as the 1800s (Benzkofer, 2014). Between 1960 to 1990, the US saw an increase in the number of serial killings reported. The zodiac killer, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Richard Ramirez (the night stalker) were the most infamous serial killers active during this period. Serial killings adversely affect societies as they result in profound fear. As such, understanding why these gruesome murders occur is crucial to stopping similar cases from reoccurring.

Specific Research Question

Other than exploring serial killings understanding the motivations that push people to commit such murders is even more important. Like their heinous crimes, serial killers all draw in much attention as people often wonder how an individual can kill multiple people without stopping or feeling remorse. Serial killers are individuals who kill more than three people due to various psychological motivations. Numerous theories try to explain why people would turn to serial killers, and often the most drawn conclusion is that such individuals are either born or made.

Stephen J. Giannangelo, in his book Real-Life Monsters: A Psychological Examination of the Serial Murderer (2012), explores the role biology and genetics play in influencing violet behavior and thus serial killing tendencies. He also explores how an individual’s background and environment influence their development and personality, thus creating serial killers. Mr. Giannangelo draws his findings from conversations and observations with eight convicted serial killers. In support of Mr. Giannangelo findings, research on this subject identifies various environmental and biological factors as causes of violence in individuals and consequently explains why serial killers exist. It is well documented that abusive experiences from a killer’s childhood often results in trauma and behavioral imprints, factors that lead to the development of a killer (Alley et al., 2014). In addition to these environmental factors, biology also influences an individual’s predisposition to violence. For instance, neurodevelopmental complications and biochemical imbalances affect desire; hence they can reduce the control of pleasure-seeking behavior, a factor common to all serial killers. Therefore, variables such as genetic predisposition, biochemical imbalances, and neurodevelopmental complications cause impulsive aggression and violence.


The study aims to determine whether serial killers are a product of nature, nurture, or a combination of these factors. Nature encompasses biological factors such as genetic formation, biochemical imbalances, and neurodevelopmental problems. In contrast, nurture includes environmental factors such as exposure to abuse and traumatic experiences during childhood. Therefore, the first hypothesis aims to determine whether a combination of nature and nurture creates serial killers. The second hypothesis determines whether serial killers are a byproduct of their nature. Lastly, the third hypothesis seeks to understand whether serial killers are a byproduct of their environment.

Study’s Contribution

This study is crucial as it contributes to the growing research on this topic. In addition, this study seeks to understand the motivation for serial killing hence aiding law enforcement in seeking serial killing patterns in their investigation and thus arresting and convicting offenders. Moreover, most of the information people have on this topic is based on the glorified versions of serial killers portrayed by media; thus, delving into this topic helps depict the true nature of these crimes.


Alley, C.S., Minnis, H., Thompson, L., Wilson, P., & Gilberg, C. (2014). Neurodevelopmental and psychosocial risk factors in serial killers and mass murders. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 19 (3), 288-301.

Benzkofer, S. (2014, October 24). Chicago’s first serial killer. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-serial-killer-white-cityflashback- 1026-20141025-story .htmlGiannangelo, S. J. (2012). Real-life monsters: A psychological examination of the serial murderer. ABC-CLIO.

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