Serial Killers, Are They Born or Made

There are many theories as to why people become serial killers. Almost all of these concepts are associated with the Nature vs. Nurture theory. Are serial killers born with the need to kill, or is it something that they learn to long for as they grew up? Many believe that the nurture theory is the likely concept to believe; that serial killers are created from bad childhood experiences including being abused by their parents, or molested at an early age. Psychologist and sociologist have interviewed serial killers and picked apart their minds, to find out what it is that makes them feel the need to perform these heinous crimes.

It is the nature theory that they are looking for when they examine a brain. They are looking for some sort of a defect within their brain that would account for the actions that they did. A goal of the psychologist is to use the information they find, to be able to discover how to determine who is, or who will become a serial killer, before they kill anyone so that they can get proper treatment.

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Many serial killers do not show any attributes that they are going to become murderers. They live normal lives like the majority of the children in the world, like going to school, making good grades, and have a loving family.

However, there are a few who will start to show signs of abnormal behavior, such as arson, and cruelty to animals. Looking into the lives of Jeffrey Dahmer, and Ted Bundy, who were both some of the world’s most notorious serial killers, will give a better insight to how they came to be serial killers; was it always in their blood, or was it something that occurred within their childhood that provoked their behavior? Jeffrey Dahmer Jeffery Dahmer dreamed that he would one day have a zombie sex slave, who would obey his every wish, and command.

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But how is it that a dream as far-fetched as this one came to be, and one that was he actually attempted to become a reality. Just what could have made this man think that he would be able to accomplish such a notion? Was he born with this thought in his mind, or was it something he was introduced to within his childhood? Information that was received from research and interviews that Dahmer was involved in helped give an insight into what made him tick, and what gave him the desire for murder, necrophilia, as well as dissecting the corpses.

Jeffery Dahmer was born on May 21, 1960 to mother Annette, and father Lionel Dahmer, who is a chemist; which is how Dahmer learned about the acids he used to erode the skin from his victims. During the pregnancy his mother had complications by the fact that his mother suffered from disabling protracted nausea, anxiety, and dysphonia coupled with his mother’s use of prescribed tranquilizers. His parents were often fighting, and Dahmer became very adapted with his parents screaming, and sometimes seeing the physical abuse between them.

Then when his mother was pregnant with Jeffrey’s younger brother, he started to feel abandoned, and the feeling intensified after his brother, David was born. These feelings did not help Dahmer grow to become an upstanding citizen, in-turn; they gave him a complex about life, and made it very difficult to make friends, because he would always have abandonment issues. In the book, “A Father’s Story” written by, Lionel Dahmer, Jeffrey’s father, he tells us about an incident where Dahmer was sexually assaulted in the woods close to their house as a young boy, and he believes this to be where the start of his sexual problems occurred.

Even though he was a very smart young boy, and enjoyed the attention from other students at school, he was still much of a loner. It was around the age of ten, that Dahmer’s interest in dead animals peaked. He would find road kill along the road, as well as in the woods behind his house, and take them home to experiment on them. He would put their bones in pots of bleach, skin them, and then nail their skin to trees. He would also decapitate them and put their heads on steaks in the ground.

The vision of dead carcasses would excite Dahmer so much as he would masturbate to the thoughts of them in his head. When he realized that he was a homosexual, the thoughts of naked men, with dead things would arouse him even more. It would not be until the age of eighteen, when Dahmer would lure his first victim, and then take his life. He picked up a hitchhiker, they drank alcohol, had sex, and then when Dahmer did not want the man to leave, he would hit him over the head with a dumbbell.

In an interview he once had with a FBI profiler, he stated “the guy wanted to leave, and I did not want him to. ” He now had a dead human being lying on his floor, for him to have his way with. He would masturbate on to the body; he cut him up, put him into trash bags, and dumped the bags into a ravine. His parents would soon be settling for a divorce, which did not go over well with Dahmer, especially with his abandonment issues. He started drinking, which would cause him to steal to get money to buy more alcohol, which led him to drop out of college, and down a path of self-destruction.

With no other choices, he joined the army where he became a cook, which is where he picked up his butchery skills. The alcohol once again got the best of him, and he was discharged from the army. A few years later his urge to kill had grown stronger and could not resist it any longer. He started luring men to him apartment, where he would drug and disremember them. He would start to experiment with trying to make a zombie sex slave by drilling holes into the top of their heads while they were still alive and injecting acid into the cavity.

On most occasions they would die instantly, but there was one who survived for two days. When that did not work he resorted to drinking the blood of some of his victims hoping that they would come alive within him, as well as, cooking, and making a meal out of their muscles with some steak sauce, seasonings, and added vegetables. Some he would keep body parts of like their head in a refrigerator, or bleaching their skulls, and making an arch out of them. He kept the parts of his victims around so he would not so alone in his life.

It would be the luck of a man who was able to escape from his death, to return with the police to the human slaughter house, which is where they found the disturbing pictures, and pieces of human body parts. From the time he was a child he was always being neglected, or felt as if everyone was abandoning him. His mother did it when she was pregnant, he was always being left out from playing with other children at school, and felt abandonment when his parents got divorced.

Because he was always afraid of being alone, he would kill so they could never leave him; this is what many researchers, as well as psychologists believe. Since he was not really beaten as a child, and was not tormented by his father or mother, as many serial killers were, researchers believe that Dahmer was a psychopath from birth, and it was the related effects from the alcohol, as well as the molestation, and abandonment that worked together to make him act upon his psychopathy tendencies.

Dr. James Fox, dean of the College of Criminal Justice at Northeastern University in Boston and recognized expert on serial killers claims that, There was nothing we could do to predict this [tragedy] ahead of time, no matter how bizarre the behavior. Serial murder, psychopathology, necrophilia, cannibalism — none of these phenomena is unique to modern times. The answers to explain these phenomena go in and out of fashion. Today, genetics is gaining ground over behaviorism in explaining why people become criminals.

In the case of Jeffrey Dahmer, it may be the only explanation. However, there are a few who have a different perspective of Dahmer such as J. Arturo Silva, M. D. , where in a case study titled, “The Case of Jeffrey Dahmer: Sexual Serial Homicide from a Neuropsychiatric Developmental Perspective,” he states Jeffrey Dahmer suffered from Asperger’s Disorder, which is considered to be a pervasive developmental disorder. ” Asperger’s is also portrayed by behavior that can be construed as peculiar from the focus, and the passion the person has towards it.

In Dahmer’s case this was the interest he had in corpses, as well as human bones and body parts. Silva also stated that the sexualized fantasies were a big part in Dahmer becoming a serial killer. He was always attracted to bodies, and body parts, and then as he grew older it turned into the sexual temperament of their bodies that he would dream about more. In the research that J. Arturo Silva presented he said, “The present study reframes JD as an example of an important type of serial killer, based on a specific form of autistic spectrum psychopathology. This type of study can give a greater look into the minds of serial killers, if there is a link between more of them , and Asperger’s then there may be a way to tell if someone might have violence within them, and when that is mixed with an extreme amount of alcohol if it will turn into deadly outrage someday. Theodore Bundy Ted Bundy was your average every day gentleman, he was handsome, very intelligent, and charming. He was also very manipulative, which he would use to lure women back to his car, only for them to never be seen again. What was it that caused him to become into a serial rapist, and murderer?

He did not come from an abusive, or a broken home, and he was not subjected to molestation as a child, so how does his case fall under the nature vs. nurture theory? Theodore Cowell was born on November 24, 1946, to a young unwed mother, Louise Cowell. Her parents disapproved of her pregnancy and sent her away to give birth; upon her arrival back home Ted was to believe that his biological mother was his sister, and that his grandparents were his mother, and father, he would later in life find out the truth, which many believe added to his psychological problems.

He took on the last name Bundy after his mother married Johnnie Bundy in 1951, with whom she had other children with that Ted always got along with. For the most part Bundy was your normal everyday child. He was not playing with dead animals, nor looking for dead things to play with. However, he did not make very many friends even though he was well-known, and well-liked throughout his school and neighborhood. In an interview with Steven Michaud, Bundy said, “I choose to be alone,” "I didn't know what made people want to be friends. Bundy graduated from high school, and then went onto college where he only attending for one year, dropping out to only to become a minimum-wage worker for various jobs. It was because of this, and his immaturity that his girlfriend, who he considered to be his dream girl, broke off their relationship, and moved away. Within a couple years he did re-enroll into college where he graduated with a psychology degree, and then went on to law school; although, about a year into school he started to cut classes, which led to him not showing up all together.

Around this same time is when random girls started to go missing within the area. It was in January of 1974 when he attacked his first known victim. Throughout the year there was one girl every month that would suddenly disappear, which was done by Bundy’s doing, but now the authorities were getting suspicious that it was not all just a coincidence. All the while Bundy was abducting, raping and murdering young women, he was leading a normal average life with, a girlfriend, school, and a government job at a suicide hotline, where he would help those trying to harm themselves.

He did not just limit himself to the state of Washington where he resided, but traveled many miles into neighboring states as well to find victims of his choosing. Bundy was charged with the murder of one his victims, where he determined he would be his own lawyer for the case. One day while in the law library at the courthouse, he jumped from a two-story window to make an escape; he was on the run for six days before he was caught. Although his first escape did not go as planned, he was sure that his second attempt would be more successful.

He cut a hole into his ceiling, crawled through to the chief jailer’s apartment, who was out for the night, changed his clothes, and was able to walk right out the front door. He was able to make his was down to Florida, which would come to be his final resting place. He made entry into the Chi Omega sorority house and attacked four of the girls living there, two of which survived, and two who unfortunately met their death. He was able to kill one more victim, a twelve year old girl, before he was caught, and arrested, this time for good.

Unlike some serial killers, Ted Bundy was very open to talking with doctors, psychologist, and journalists about his murderous escapades. He mostly did this for the attention that it would give him, which fed into his ego. At one point Bundy said, “I am the only Ph. D. serial killer,” it was as if he was proud to be a serial killer. During the beginning of Bundy’s trial Dr. Dorothy Otnow Lewis, a psychiatrist, and an expert on violent behaviors, was brought in to evaluate him.

She concluded that Bundy was suffering from bipolar mood depression, and after interviewing his family she discovered that his grandmother Eleanor also suffered from psychotic depression, as well as, agitated depression. This gives a little bit better view of why he led the type of life that he did. Bundy also had zero compassion for any of his victims; when he would speak of their murders he did not convey any emotion other than a smile or grin that would escape from time to time when he would be talking about them.

Lewis also found out that when Bundy was three he would put kitchen knives into the bed of his aunt, who would awake to find Bundy in her room smiling. She stated that this is often a trait that you see in someone who has been traumatized at some point in their life. It has been shown throughout research, and numerous case studies that the majority of the times, serial killers are a product of their environment-nurture theory.

It is the result of broken homes, them being beaten and abused, abandoned at an early age by many people close to them, as well as being exposed to violence at an age that they are too young to understand it. When they did not grow up in such a manor, people assume that they were just born to be a killer. Within a study from 2003 scientist showed that when a person who was considered a non-psychopath would lie, there would be increased brain activity in the frontal lobe, that suggests anxiety or remorse.

However, when a psychopath would lie, there would not be any increased activity within the brain, further more when they would see the words like “rape” or “murder” the activity within their brains did not take place in the limbic system which is where the language processing ensues, which gives proof that it is a possibility that killers can be born. However, there are a select few as we saw within Ted Bundy’s case that they did not come from an abusive background. He grew up in a very loving home, ith two very loving, and caring parents, so why did he still become a “monster? ” From the studies, and interviews with him, he says that it is because of the pornography he was introduced to when he was young that put the thoughts of rape into his head. Yet, even though he personally said that it was the porn that enticed his interests, it is still argued that he may have been born with some sort of flaw within his brain. From the information that was found of his grandmother and her psychological problems may show that it can be a genetic problem.

By these accounts it would seem as if Ted Bundy would fall in between both the nature and nurture theories. He had psychological problems as well as, different encounters when he was younger, and when he was a teen that worked together to create his horrid ways. With Jeffrey Dahmer he did grow up in an abusive environment, many doctors believe that because of the neglect at an early age that progressed through the years it created him to be a killer. It was said that he killed because he did not want to be alone anymore, and that is why he would keep body parts of his victims.

On the other hand, he was always interested in dead animals from childhood, so it could be said that it was something he was born with. So Dahmer is also both parts of the nature and nurture theory. Even though there have been many research studies on the nature vs. nurture theory, it has yet to be concluded that there is a definite explanation as to how serial killers come to be. There may never be a complete conclusion as to exactly how they are made, or why they are made. In my own personal opinion, I do not think that there will ever be a for sure reason as to why.

I think that it is going to be one of those many unanswered questions of life. After researching many different serial killers they all seem to have slightly different reasons as to why they killed. They all might have had one or two things in common but not enough to give a one hundred percent connection. The theory of nature vs. nurture of serial killers will continue to be debated upon, and will more than likely be one of the many wonders of the world that cannot ever seem to be explained.

Updated: Mar 15, 2022
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Serial Killers, Are They Born or Made. (2016, Oct 18). Retrieved from

Serial Killers, Are They Born or Made essay
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