Nature vs. nurture. Are serial killers born or created?

Many scientists, including Faye Snyder state, “Killers are Made, Not Born”.  According to Pinkus (2001) serial killers are created from a combination of are three things: child abuse, neurological damage and psychiatric illness. Pinkus (2001), to explain how the three combined, stated “the three factors interact, as childhood abuse creates enormous anger, while neurologic and psychiatric diseases of the brain damage the capacity to stop urges to violence.” Out of these three factors people are possible born with 2 of them.

As you can see through the Hickeys Trauma Model (figure 1) traumatic events such as child abuse can create homicidal behavior. Ressler & Shachtman (1993) stated “similar patterns of severe childhood neglect”. Pinkus’ (2001) found that 94 percent had experienced abuse as children. Thus because child abuse is a environmental factor this support the idea that you are not born a killer.

(Figure 1)

Secondly, not all people with neurological damage and psychiatric illness become serial killers. Furthermore some neurological and psychiatric illnesses can be triggered after birth e.g. schizophrenia. Thus environmental factor can cause neurological and psychiatric illnesses that can caused a person to become a serial killer.

A great case study that studies if serial killers are born not created is the case of James Fallon. He is a neuroscientist and found out that he was part of a long linage of serial killers. When checking the brains of the psychopaths he observed that he shared the same areas of his orbital cortex were inactive, even though he had never has killed anyone. According to the idea that being of born a killer, James Fallon should have had  serial killing tendencies.

Overall it seems that there are a few elements of being a serial killer, which a person can be born with, however if Pinkus’ (2001) three factors (child abuse, neurological damage and psychiatric illness) are not all present you are unlikely to get a serial killer. Thus serial killers are not born evil. As Vronsky P. (2004) states, “unraveling the making of a serial killer is like aligning a Rubik’s cube”. Currently we don’t have the mechanisms in place to make concrete predictions on a child’s future, however in time it might be possible.

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