Creation of Serial Killers – Nature Versus Nurture
There is a difference between a serial killer and a murderer. What exactly defines a serial killer? According to The National Museum of Crime and Punishment, “A serial killer is conventionally defined as a person who murders three or more people in a period of over a month, with ‘cooling down’ time between murders. For a serial killer, the murders must be separate events, which are most often driven by a psychological thrill or pleasure.” Psychologists have tried to figure out what causes a child to grow up and become a serial killer. Are they born this way, or did their experiences and environments shape them into the monsters they become? The topic of nature vs. nurture in serial killers is constantly being debated in the professional psychological community; “Sociologists have been dealing with this issue for years, especially in the analysis of serial killers. The question is: does nature, nurture, or a mixture of both make a serial killer?”
David Berkowitz is a serial killer commonly referred to as Son of Sam. Given the information about his childhood and later his violent crimes, he is a perfect example of a killer being created by nature. When Berkowitz was a child, he was polite and raised in a loving home. Berkowitz was adopted, and from the outside, it seemed as though his upbringing was mentally healthy and stable. Although Berkowitz was able to flourish in a healthy environment with his adoptive parents, he still became a violent serial killer. While there is not much information about his biological parents, it is safe to assume that some history of mental illness or predisposition for violence could have been inherited from one or both of his parents. Berkowitz confessed that his killings were committed to silence the demons in his head, proving that some kind of mental disturbance was present. The older he became, the more his mental health began to deteriorate. Berkowitz was paranoid that his landlord was part of a demonic conspiracy and that the neighbor’s howling dogs were telling him to kill women. When looking at his unraveling and violent crimes paired with his seemingly healthy upbringing, it is clear that David Berkowitz suffered from psychological disturbances that lay hidden in his genes, propelling him to infamy as one of America’s most volatile serial killers.
How it works
Richard Ramirez was a serial killer who ran wild in the California suburbs in the 1980s. His crimes were gruesome, and his childhood was plagued by equally disturbing events. Ramirez had spent a lot of time with his cousin, Mike, who was in the Vietnam war and bragged about raping and killing numerous women while fighting overseas. Young Richard was exposed to photos of the mutilated women and was even present when Mike brutally murdered his own wife. Ramirez also claimed that his father was both physically and mentally abusive to him. Due to the awful things that Ramirez experienced in his youth, he gravitated toward drug use and satanic rock music. Ramirez eventually dropped out of school and committed himself to his life of crime and other deviant behavior. In 1984 Ramirez committed his first murder and was eventually convicted of 13 more, on top of over 43 other charges that accompanied his killings. It is unclear what would’ve become of Richard had he not experienced so much childhood trauma. It is evident that in the case of Richard Ramirez, nature played a significant role in his becoming a malicious serial killer. While in most cases of serial killers, there is evidence supporting either nature or nurture, and it is clear that a combination of the two is what makes these killers so deadly.
According to criminologist Dr. Adrian Raine, both biological and social factors contribute to the making of a murderer. Raine explains that more than 100 twin and adoption analyses showed that approximately 50% of the variance in antisocial behavior is attributable to genetic influences. There is also evidence that there are people with a genetic predisposition for violence that may never be triggered, but those who experience abuse or other childhood traumas are more likely to act out violently and experience violent thoughts. So while a person may be born with this evil in their genes, it takes a trigger for most killers to become serial killers. David Berkowitz’s case strongly supports nature being the main component of his behavior. With Richard Ramirez’s case, however, it is possible that a genetic or even brain abnormality was simply triggered by the extremely disturbing events of his childhood, which then led him to become the serial killer known as The Night Stalker. This essay on nature vs. nurture has explored what makes a serial killer.
The debate on nature versus nurture pertains to the degree of impact an individual’s inherited traits (nature), and environmental factors (nurture) have on their development. This debate is especially significant in the context of serial killers since the origins of their conduct are still a mystery. Some specialists propose that serial killers have an innate tendency towards violence, while others maintain that their actions result from exposure to violent or criminal behavior.
Nurture factors in serial killers can include exposure to violence, neglect, and abuse. Other environmental factors contributing to serial killing include exposure to pornography and media violence and being raised in a dysfunctional family.
Serial killers are typically classified based on their motives, which vary widely. Some may be driven by financial gain, while others may be motivated by a desire for power and control. Sexual gratification is also a common motive for some killers, while others may be fueled by anger or a sense of revenge. Many factors can contribute to an individual’s tendency to commit serial murder, including mental illness, a history of abuse, or exposure to violence. Environmental factors such as access to weapons, exposure to violent media, or living in a high-crime area can also play a role in shaping a person’s behavior.