Are Serial Killers Born or Made?
A study of British serial killers
Last week I received a comment on one of my articles. It stated that the killers had been born evil. Although I didn’t disagree with it, it went against what I have always believed. People are not born bad, they are made worse through their circumstances.
This thinking was largely associated with the children I worked with. Although I have worked with murderers, none of them were serial killers. It was time to examine my ideals. Are serial killers born or created through their background? The oldest question in psychology, nature or nurture.
Common characteristics of many serial killers
When the FBI started profiling serial killers they spoke to many serial murderers. One of the most famous of these was Edmund Kemper. They discovered many common traits between them. They used these traits to help profile serial killers of the future. This knowledge helped apprehended many killers. It is the three main traits that I will examine within British serial killers.
A large proportion of serial killers are classed as psychopaths with a lack of empathy and poor relationships. Yet not everyone, who is a psychopath, kills. Some heads of multi-million-pound companies are considered psychopaths.
Unstable home life
When we look at serial killers, this seems to be a common trait amongst them all. Ian Brady was born into the slums of Glasgow. Money was tight and his home life was considered unstable. This was especially true when he was placed in the foster care system.
Fred West came from a poor farming family he was the eldest of nine. His father was a tough disciplinarian, in contrast, his mother was overprotective and lacked boundaries. These mixed messages during childhood would have resulted in an unstable childhood.
It is widely known that both Myra Hindley and Rose West came from abusive backgrounds. Hindley’s father returned from the war with PTSD, a heavy drinker he was violent in the home. West’s father sexually abused her and continued throughout her adult life.
The two serial killers who contradict this theory are Harold Shipman and Beverly Allitt. Shipman came from a good home and was his mothers favourite. It is possible that her death was the trigger for his murdering ways. Allitt however, came from a small supportive village. Her home life was good, her parents loving and caring.
Could we conclude from this, that most serial killers were created evil, but Allitt was born evil? I would disagree.
Loners who were low achievers
The statement low achiever refers to them doing poorly at school. Most serial killers are highly intelligent and extremely manipulative.
West in particular was known to be of low IQ. When interviewed he was given an appropriate adult because of this. It is unclear whether Rose West was intelligent. It was thought that she controlled and manipulated Fred, so it would follow that she was more intelligent.
Shipman despite being a doctor had a low IQ it took him several attempts to pass his GCSEs and medical exams.
However, both Brady and Hindley were highly intelligent. They spend much of their time reading various books, most with a sadistic theme.
Both Nilsen and Sutcliffe had a low academic achievement level.
The factor that all the previously mentioned serial killers had in common was they were all loners. It appears from research that being a loner is a positive trait for all killers.
Previous deviant behaviour.
Many of the serial killer in the UK had a form of deviant behaviour in younger years. Although not all recorded official deviant behaviour, some were better at hiding it than others.
Brady had sadistic tendencies from a very early age, which resulted in him going into foster care.
Fred West was sexually deviant at the age of twelve. Having relationships with both animals and family members.
Rose West was raped by her father at a young age. In teenage years she was considered promiscuous with a deviant sexual appetite.
Nilsen had an early obsession with death, after seeing his grandfather’s dead body. He went on to participate in necrophilia.
Allitt had attention-seeking tendencies in teenage years. She would walk around with bandages on her arms and fake illnesses.
Shipman became obsessed with death and morphine after watching a doctor administer it to his dying mother.
Sutcliffe was always fascinated with prostitutes and used them frequently as a young man.
Nature or nurture
It would appear when you look at these characteristics and killers that they were all a product of their childhood. Most had come from broken homes with low attainment. The evidence would seem to point towards nurture being the main cause of serial killers.
But, let’s look deeper at that. Throughout the country, some young people come from broken homes. Young people who go into foster care. Young people who are considered loners. Many people in society, struggle in school whether it’s poor attendance or low attainment.
Not all of these become serial killers. This would lead me to conclude that serial killers are a result of nature and nurture. Serial killers most have a mental predisposition for murder, that is compounded by their upbringing.
Are serial killers born or made? Both.