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

Many scientists including Faye Snyder state, “Killers are Made, Not Born”.  According to Pinkus J. (2001) there are three things, which make up a serial killer. According to Pinkus J. (2001) serial killers are created from a combination of child abuse with neurological damage and psychiatric illness. “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 traumatic events such as child abuse can create homicidal behavior (figure 1). Ressler & Shachtman (1993) stated “similar patterns of severe childhood neglect”. In Pinkus’ (2001) carrier he has 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 that not all people with neurological damage and psychiatric illness are serial killers. Only occasionally does these problems arise, some of these problems main psychiatric illness are something your born with however this can also be a environmental factor.

A great case study showing that 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 killers. When checking the brains of the psychopaths he was studying he found out that he shared the same problem that his orbital cortex looks inactive. However he had never has killed anyone. According to the idea that being of born a killer, James Fallon would be a serial killer.

Overall it seems that there are a few elements of being a serial killer, which a person can be born with however if Pinkus’ 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) says, “unraveling the making of a serial killer is like aligning a Rubik’s cube” it’s very hard to figure out however in time it is possible.


3 thoughts on “Nature vs. nurture. Are serial killers born or created?

  1. jennyeuk says:

    It was Locke, (1690; 1913) who suggested that all children are born into the world with their mind as a tabula rasa, and it is the influences from your caregiver who shape your upbringing through various experiences (as cited in Shaffer & Kipp. 2010).

    Children are born into this world as children and sadly as you mention, there are changes that occur in their life that perhaps cloud their perception towards other individuals. The idea that people are born, as a serial killer is an unrealistic approach but one which could have the potential as being true. The first serial murders were recorded as far back from the 19th century (Krafft-Ebing, n.d.), but in recent years have been glorified by the media because of their overall interest to the general public, such as Jack the Ripper. The FBI website states that these people are not reclusive or misfits that live alone, but tend to have families with children living in middleclass areas, even in cases such of the Green River Killer, Gary Ridgeway was a very religious person.

    “The Green River Killer, Gary Ridgeway, confessed to killing 48 women over a twenty-year time period in the Seattle, Washington area. He had been married three times and was still married at the time of his arrest. He was employed as a truck painter for thirty-two years. He attended church regularly, read the Bible at home and at work, and talked about religion with co-workers. Ridgeway also frequently picked up prostitutes and had sex with them throughout the time period in which he was killing.” (As cited in


    Krafft-Ebing, (n.d.). Serial Murder; Federal Bureau of investigation. Reports and publications. Retrieved from

  2. Lydia Isherwood says:

    How do you cite this article in an essay?

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