Killers — Nature vs. Nurture

In the article “Inside The Mind of a Serial Killer: Are Serial Killers Born That Way?” published in May 2016 on The Odyssey Online, Kenny Bariliari explains commonalities between serial killers in order to provide insight into what makes an individual into a murderer: childhood trauma/ abuse and brain abnormalities or chemical imbalances which leave an individual with a lack of empathy. Bariliari includes historical statistics which show that serial killers span all racial groups, but commonly are between the ages of 26 and 31 years old and 90% are male. The most important parallel between these murderers is their shared neglect during their childhoods — as an estimated 50% of all serial killers recount similar traumatic childhood experiences. This supports the theory that sequential murderers are formed and conditioned by their experiences while growing into adulthood. On the other hand, he quotes an article published by the University of New Mexico in which neuroscientists explain that most killers suffer from a brain abnormality which impairs their emotional development — these individuals are thus prevented from forming healthy relationships with others. This supports the opposing argument — that killers are born. But although many can have preconditions which increase the likelihood of physically lashing out against other individuals, it is ultimately how their brains and emotional development are matured that greatly impacts their deadly nature — or nurture, if you will.

This article aligns with my thesis — that psychopathic serial killers are developed by their individual circumstances rather than by simply being born into it. Although this source states several pieces of evidence, he does not state it in a way that would be considered “credible”. For example, when stating the statistics of the racial, gender, and age makeups of murderers, he does not cite his source. That being said, the numbers listed are supported by sources such as Radford University and The Serial Killer Information Center, which has identified and compared over 2,600 serial killers.

In addition, the article states that an estimated 50 percent of sequential murderers experienced emotional abuse during developmental stages in their childhood; this statement is backed by a study carried out by Mitchell and Aamodt from the Radford University in Virginia in 2005, where they found that within their chosen “lust killer group” (classified as one who kills for sexual gratification), there were “six times more reported physical abuse during childhood than the general population” and “almost nine times higher…sexual abuse…than the general population”. Though this information alone is staggering, the biggest difference was seen under the psychological abuse category — 2% of the general population compared to 50% in the serial killer group.

Specific examples of the link between childhood trauma and becoming a killer can be found in individuals such as Edmund Kemper (The Co-Ed Killer) and John Wayne-Gacy (The Killer Clown). Kemper ’s alcoholic mother forced him to live in the basement from age twelve, and neglected him for her students — of which he began killing in 1972. He buried several of his victims’ heads in his mother’s backyard, and butchered his mother the following year — he performed sexual acts with her severed head in order to humiliate her as she humiliated him in his childhood, and put her vocal cords down the garbage disposal to “shut her up for good”. Gacy’s killings stemmed from his upbringing with his abusive father, who used to beat him unconscious. He was also molested by a family friend. Gary went on to rape and murder over 33 teenage boys. There are many more examples like these, which show the correlation between childhood trauma and the crimes committed.

Though Barilari’s article could explain each idea further and cite his sources to make it more credible, the facts which were presented are correct. Thus, the article is a credible source of factual information regarding the making of serial killers.

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