Most experts agree that there is no single cause for the development of a serial killer. Instead, it is thought to be the result of a combination of factors.
One theory suggests that serial killers are born with a personality disorder that makes them unable to feel empathy or remorse. This can lead them to engage in impulsive, violent behaviour without regard for the consequences.
Another theory suggests that serial killers are made, not born. This theory argues that early childhood trauma and abuse can lead to the development of a mental disorder that causes someone to act out their violence in adulthood.
So, which is it? Are serial killers born or made? The answer is probably a bit of both. While there may be some underlying personality traits that make someone more likely to become a serial killer, it is thought that early life experiences are also a major factor. Without the proper support and intervention, someone who is struggling with mental illness or trauma can be at risk of becoming a serial killer.
The definition of a serial killer, as given by Robert Ressler (1974), is a person who murders several people in a row, typically with no apparent cause and following a certain modus operandi.
This type of perpetrator is usually male, and his crimes are usually sexually motivated. There is much debate surrounding the issue of whether or not serial killers are born or made. Some experts believe that serial killers are born with a mental disorder that predisposes them to violence, while others believe that their environment and experiences play a more significant role in their development.
The majority of serial killers do seem to share some common personality traits, such as low self-esteem, a lack of empathy, and a history of violence. However, it is important to remember that not all people who exhibit these traits go on to become serial killers. It is also worth noting that many people who do become serial killers do not share all of these traits.
In a clinical setting, the terms “sociopath” and “psychopath” are no longer employed. Instead, anti-social personality disorder is a diagnosis for these pathologies. A sociopath was previously defined as a person with a personality illness who has an absence of moral responsibility or social conscience (n/a. 1914).
Psychopath, on the other hand, is defined as a person with a personality disorder characterized by lack of empathy and remorse, superficial charm, egocentricity and impulsivity (Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2017). It is important to understand that these are not medical terms but rather layman’s terms used to describe someone with anti-social personality disorder.
The Mayo Clinic (2017) defines anti-social personality disorder as “a mental condition in which a person has a long history of manipulating, exploiting or violating the rights of others. A person with antisocial personality disorder may not conform to societal norms, may repeatedly lie or act impulsively and feel little or no remorse for their actions.”
There is no such thing as a “genetic killer,” but genes and traits can have an indirect impact on criminality (Cassel & Bernstein, 2007). A polymorphism in the MAOA gene on the X chromosome was discovered by Caspi et al. (2002). The gene, which is involved in metabolizing neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, has a regulatory effect on mood via brain’s natural regulating of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin (Dunlap., 2010).
Low activity MAOA has been linked to antisocial and aggressive behavior in animals as well as humans (Coccaro, 2004).
While the presence of a low activity MAOA gene may be a predisposing factor for some people to develop into serial killers, it is not the sole cause. Many people with this gene do not go on to commit murder. There are other environmental and social factors that must come into play for someone to become a serial killer.
One theory is that childhood abuse or trauma can lead to psychopathy in adulthood (Hare, 1998). A study by Widom and Ames (1994) found that abused and neglected children were much more likely to be arrested as adults for violent crimes. It is thought that the abuse creates a feeling of isolation and resentment which can lead to violence.
Another theory is that poor attachment to parents or caregivers in childhood can lead to sociopathic behavior in adulthood (Lyons-Ruth, 2003). A study by Bowlby (1944) found that infants who were deprived of maternal care were more likely to experience emotional and behavioral problems later in life. It is thought that the lack of attachment creates a sense of detachment from others which can lead to sociopathic behavior.
So while there may be some genetic and environmental factors that contribute to the development of serial killers, it is not clear what the exact cause is. It is likely that a combination of factors leads to this type of criminal behavior.
Because these chemicals are missing, a person may become more aggressive if they have this condition; if a youngster has it, he or she might find it hard to get along with others and develop resentment toward what is acceptable in society, which can lead to deviant behavior (Dunlap. 2010).
There are three types of personality disorders which are associated with serial killers, these are; antisocial, borderline and narcissistic (Hicks, 2007). Antisocial personality disorder is where a person has no empathy for others, they are self-centered and impulsive. A borderline personality disorder is when a person has poor self-image, they see the world as being either good or bad with no in-between.
A narcissistic personality disorder is where a person has an inflated sense of self-importance and needs constant admiration from others (Hicks, 2007). Research suggests that most serial killers have one or more of these personality disorders (Schutt & Scheurmann, 2009).
There are two main theories which try to explain why some people become serial killers, these are; nature and nurture. Nature suggests that serial killers are born with the personality traits which make them more likely to commit murder, while nurture suggests that it is their environment and experiences which lead them to become serial killers. There is evidence to support both of these theories.
Some people believe thatserial killers are born with the personality traits which make them more likely to commit murder. This theory is supported by the fact that many serial killers have a history of mental illness or psychopathic tendencies (Hicks, 2007). For example, Jeffrey Dahmer was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder (Schutt & Scheurmann, 2009). This suggests that he was predisposed to becoming a serial killer.