The serial killer as a child...


In Sexual Homicide Patterns & Motives, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents Robert

Ressler, Ann Burgess, and John Douglas examined the childhood traits of 36 serial

killers for commonalities collectively expressed by the group. The following

information summarizes the main findings from this study examining the serial killers'

childhood backgrounds.

As a child, future serial killers exhibit certain behavioral traits or tendencies that

are not considered "normal." Taken separately, such tendencies may not be indicative

of a problem. That is, bed wetting is not only common to future serial killers.

However, such a behavior expressed with many other indicator behaviors increases the

correlational validity between reported childhood behavior indicators and serial murder.

 

Table 1. Frequency of Reported Behavior Indicators in Childhood

Behavior

Childhood # of

%

 Daydreaming

  28

 82

 Compulsive masturbation

  28

 82

 Isolation

  28

 71

 Chronic lying

  28

 71

 Enuresis (bed wetting)

 22

 68

 Rebelliousness

 27

 67

 Nightmares

 24

 67

 Destroying property

 26

 58

 Fire setting

 25

 56

 Stealing

 27

 56

 Cruelty to children

 28

 54

 Poor body image

 27

 52

 Temper tantrums

 27

 48

 Sleep problems

 23

 48

 Assaultive to adults

 25

 38

 Phobias

 24

 38

 Running away

 28

 36

 Cruelty to animals

 28

 36

 Accident prone

 24

 29

 Headaches

 21

 29

 Destroying possessions

 25

 28

 Eating problems

 26

 27

 Convulsions

 26

 19

 Self-mutilation

 26

 19

*This table was modified from: Ressler RK, Burgess AW, and Douglas JE. Sexual Homicide Pattern & Motives , (pg. 29); Lexington Books.

Although some of the listed behaviors are quite disturbing, including cruelty to

children and animals, convulsions, and self-mutilation, the three indicators

reported with highest frequency are daydreaming, compulsive masturbation, and

isolation. Not exactly the portrait of a serial killer, is it? Or is it afterall? It does

mesh with the notion that fantasy is a major component to the psyche of the serial

killer.

fantasy...

Okay, even if we can correlate the childhood behavioral indicators with the fantasy

component of the adult serial killer, we still need to determine both at what time, and at

what pont, such fantasies begin. The key may be isolation, one of the three most reported

behaviors of a serial killer at childhood. For a child who is commonly left alone, a way to

adapt would be to fantasize-to live in a dream world. Thus, inattention may lead to fantasy

which may, in turn, lead to serial murder. Of course, this is a gross overgeneralization and

simplification of what might occur. Well, now we've hypothesized why two of the three most

reported behaviors in childhhod our found in serial killers. But what about the third,

compulsive masturbation? Well, this one may also be related to the fantasy portion of the serial

killer psyche.



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