Serial Murderers: The Construction
Daniel Larson, University of Iowa
The research question I have selected is: ‘What are the main sociological causes for deviant criminal behavior among serial killers?’ I have chosen this question for my interest in the topic on the notion that criminology in whatever form seems to fascinate me. The idea that there are persons out there who cannot only conceive of such malicious acts, but who can also act out on them with complete disregard for morality and consequence, has always bewildered me. I do want to know what can possibly drive someone to such drastic measures, to go as far as killing another, to murder more than once, and sometimes to murder enough to fashion skills for the task with passion and ease. I have long known that it would be dismissive to call a serial killer crazy with evidence based only upon the act of murdering itself, so there must be something deeper. I want to find out what those deeper reasons are, maybe just so that I can relate myself in some way to the criminals. Because, if I know why the murders are committed, I can gain a better understanding of the world in which these deviants live. And, for the rest of society, incite into the mind of a killer can bare great sociological significance. If we as society know what causes the murders and why they occur, then our chances of nabbing the criminal much ahead of the game will surely increase. For, not only would it be possible to stop the killer before the demise of many victims, but maybe, just maybe, these empty, aimless murders could even be prevented altogether. And, before I can make a proper analysis of existing theories, it will be necessary to define the serial murderer, and also to give a brief background on the topic's prevalence.
Defining the Serial Murderer
The definition of serial murder is extremely sketchy. Many researchers of serial killing tend to define the offender on terms much too narrow for the purposes of this proposal. And, it is important to note that these definitions arose at the time the idea of 'serial murder' was first coined—during the 1980s. Therefore, not only are these definitions lacking application to a diversity of killers, but they are outdated as well (Eager 1990). For this research project, to include a larger number of sample subjects, the serial murderer is defined as someone, depending on the number of victims, period of time, and reason for homicide, who kills more than four people in a seventy-two-hour time frame (Jenkins 1994). This definition best suits a broad array of killers because it less-readily classifies killers on the basis of motive and outcome. Also, because of the huge lack of information on serial murder (which is also a good thing), and because limited studies rarely reflect the proper numbers and figures, larger samples would be much more helpful in order to reflect the entire genre as a whole. This is, of course, the case in any study being conducted.
The background of serial murder is also hazy. Some theorists argue that serial murder was just as evidently an aspect of the past as it is today, but that only recently has it become 'larger than life' because of the media's portrayal (Jenkins 1994). Jenkins says "All too often the most basic claims used to validate a putative social problem rely on the historical amnesia of the assumed audience" (Jenkins 1994). Here, Jenkins is showing that history is neglected because society would like to believe that the problem of serial murder is new and threatening. Other theorists, however, argue that serial murder is a more recent phenomenon. Here, Jenkins decides: "In order for the cause of serial murder to be placed on the shoulders of a changing society, it must be shown that the problem is recently in occurrence, an epidemic." He is right; a change in society cannot be blamed if the practice of serial murder was also a thing of the past (Jenkins 1994). Hickey states that since 1990, the last twenty years had seen a rise in murder and manslaughter rates of 300 percent. Hickey credits this rise mostly to domestic conflicts, but also notes that about one-third of all murders are committed by a stranger to the victim. This stranger-to-stranger relationship, he says, can be attributed mostly to serial murder (Hickey 1991). But, the likelihood of this can be disputed as well. In contradiction, Jenkins finds that in any given year, serial murder accounts for only 0.01% of total deaths in the United States (Jenkins 1994). In account of these opposing estimates, it seems likely that a more accurate answer would fall somewhere closer to the figure Jenkins provides because stranger-to-stranger homicide can serve several applicable motives. And, according to the United States government, the number of serial killers estimated to be operating at any one time in the U.S. is 35 (Eager 1990). Thus, it seems that serial murder might not be on an extreme incline. But, Eager suggests also that murders of the past sometimes may have gone unnoticed, an example being that detectives may have been scattered over jurisdictions which were too large. This creates the ambiguity in the numbers, but Eager stresses that one thing is for sure: the number of 'motiveless' murders has gone up indefinitely (Eager 1990). The research that follows will focus on several theoretical influences (e.g., childhood) and possible theories (e.g., the neutralization theory) that have been offered, with the ideal result being a cohesive guide to serial killers.
Raising a Killer
Socialization is said to begin shortly after birth, as typified by the work of Sigmund Freud and George Herbert Mead. These two men agree that early childhood experiences bear a lasting impression on the individual unique personalities that everyone develops (Brym and Lie 2003). So, in accord with the theories of these two men, it is logical that studying the childhood of the serial murderer is of great, if not the greatest, significance. The social learning theory, in specific, is a theory that uses the childhood of serial offenders to identify the main, or only, reasons for causation. The social learning theory examines the offender's past for clues in explaining aggressive behavior. The central theme of this theory is the relation of childhood victimization or observation of violent acts to future activities in criminal behavior (Hickey 1991). According to Hickey, stress caused by childhood 'traumatizations' may be a trigger to criminal behavior in adulthood. It is important to understand that most people go through one or more of these traumatizations with no lifelong effects. However, in the future serial killer, the inability to cope with the stress involved with these traumas leads to the offending acts. Hickey continues to say that the most common form of childhood traumatization is familial rejection, while other traumas act as the icing on the cake—they top it off. The claim that serial murder is a means to deal with the rejection is the basis of Hickey's postulations (Hickey 1991). To prove or disprove this theory, a study by Fitzpatrick and Boldizar can be utilized. The initial objective of the study was to examine the relationship between exposure to violence in the community and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Two hundred twenty-one low-income African-American youths between the ages of 7 and 18 were analyzed who did not appear to have significant degrees in differences of exposure to violence. Results show that about 27% of these children met the diagnostic criteria required to be considered a sufferer of PTSD. Being victimized and witnessing violence were both shown to be significantly related to PTSD symptoms, thus it can be argued that it is certainly possible that many serial murderers were exposed to or were victims of violence as youth in relation to stress itself (Fitzpatrick and Boldizar 1993). The problem with this study, however, is that the sample was non-random and largely specific to the qualities each participant possessed. This is a problem that cannot be overlooked because, historically speaking, serial murderers are predominantly white males (Tithecott 1997, Jenkins 1994, Fox and Levin 1994, Gresswell 1994, Hickey 1991, and Eager 1990).
The next three studies examine how physical and sexual abuse, or victimization, possibly contribute to the cause of serial murder. In a study underwent by Swanston, et al., signs of depression, low self-esteem, and problem behaviors were compared between children who were victims of sexual abuse and non abused youths. Seventy-five children who had not ever been sexually abused were evaluated then compared to sixty-eight children who had been sexually abused. The abused were examined five years after their original investigations. The results of the study showed that the previously abused children exhibited much higher levels of behavioral problems and depression than the other, non abused, participants (Swanston, et al. 1997). This result is consistent with the belief that serial murderers are more likely to have been sexually abused as children than the other children in their cohort. The correlation exists because behavioral problems are fundamental in serial killers (Fox and Levin 1994).
In the second study, sexual abuse was also the major focus. This study was longitudinal and included 224 males who rendered a history of sexual abuse, the purpose being to correlate sexual abuse of children to the likelihood of sexual abuse by the same children in adulthood. The result showed that 26 of the 224 had committed sexual offenses, and almost always toward children. Furthermore, results show that most sexually abused children do not become pedophiles, but that there is a relationship between childhood experience and increased risk of becoming an abuser later in life (Salter, et al., 2003). As far as serial murder is concerned, the results are related, obviously, because 'lust murderers' are the extreme cases of sexual offenders (Hickey 1991).
The third study related to childhood victimization deals with child abuse, neglect, family problems, and prevalence of depression, substance abuse, and behavioral disorders. The objective was to determine whether young violent offenders and young property offenders would differ in the above-mentioned areas of interest. The conclusion stated that the results yielded no dramatic differences in the childhood experiences, family problems, and psychiatric diagnoses between both groups of offenders. However, when the study was compared to a similar one conducted by Lewis, et al., both results were consistent by stating that in homicidal offenders, abuse and rejection were strong indicators of later offense (Haapasalo and Hamalainen 1996). Thus it can be said with confidence that there is some reciprocal evidence that Hickey's claim of rejection is a quality frequently attributed to the cause of serial murder (Hickey 1991).
Finally, according to a different study conducted by Roeder, Lynch, and Nagin, child-rearing practices were related to future criminal behavior. In the study, data collection began on 403 males from London in 1961-1962, when the participants were eight years of age. The men were followed for 22 years, and during that time 36% were convicted of at least one crime. The average number of convictions for the men in that percentage was 4.4. The main purpose of this case-study was to relate latent traits to individual covariates. In essence, Moffitt's theory of crime and delinquency was tested. Moffitt's theory contests that there are two types of criminals: adolescent-limited offenders, and life-course-persistent offenders. The latter category being attributed to antisocial behavior which has its origins in childhood due to parental failure to properly socialize a difficult child, and also a set of neurological abnormalities that are attributed to the longevity (Roeder, et al. 1999). The results of this study not only show an integration of childhood experience in serial murder, but also psychological aspects, which will be a focus of the next discussion.
When researching the sociological causes of serial murder, an understanding of the psychological causes is a prerequisite. However, this does not imply that sanity is always at question. On the contrary, Fox and Levin find that serial killers "know right from wrong, know exactly what they are doing, and can control their desire to kill, but choose not to do so. They are more cruel than crazy" (Fox and Levin 1994). Instead of the insanity plea, it is found that serial murderers tend to be more sociopathic than anything. Sociopaths, or psychopaths, are classified more as people with a disorder of character rather than the mind, and it is understood that an estimated 3% of all males in our society are considered sociopathic. Moreover, it is found that the insane are typically not mentally able to carry out the act of murder let alone plan one (Fox and Levin 1994). In fact, a psychiatric assessment of nearly two thousand persons arrested for homicide between 1964 and 1973, only 1% of that sample was considered to be insane (Hickey 1991). Thus, an examination of sociopathic behavior, or antisocial disorder, is a better approach to answer the proposed sociological question rather than an overview of psychoses.
The study of emphasis here will be that of Lundy, Pfohl, and Kuperman on one hundred and seventy pre adolescent children (of which 138 were male and 32 were female) admitted to the University of Iowa Psychiatric Hospital between 1970 and 1983. The purpose of the study was to determine if assaultive behavior in childhood could be predicted by adult imprisonment and criminality in a biological parent. The results showed that 23 individuals had prison records during the follow-up in 1990. The more interesting aspect of the results was that of these 23 individuals, nineteen were diagnosed as having a personality disorder. And, of these nineteen, fifteen were noted to have antisocial personality disorder, the remaining four subjects were described as having 'mixed personality disorder.' All other persons having incarceration records demonstrated a diagnosis of substance abuse. Overall, among the participants, male gender, violence, and parental criminality identified persons who were at risk for adult imprisonment. A risk factor for adult disturbance, including sociopathy, was psychiatric hospitalization in childhood (Lundy, et al. 1993). This outcome very clearly illustrates the fact that the sociopathic state typically accrues criminal behavior. So, specifically related to the serial killer—the king of criminals—sociopathy would appear to be a suitable attribution to these offenders.
With a different approach, a study by Reid, et al. can be incorporated. The intention of this study was to identify demographic, clinical, and forensic characteristics of adolescent (19 years old and younger) mass murderers—subjects who killed three or more victims in one event. The method for research involved a set of criteria that each subject was to follow. And, the subjects were obtained by searching criminal computer databases to identify cases meeting the criteria. The results of the case-study show that 34 subjects (meeting the criteria) committed 27 mass murders between 1958 and 1999. These results show also that all subjects were male with a median age resting at 17 years. Other observations were as follows: many were described as 'loners,' typically having antisocial disorder, almost half were bullied, and alcohol and drug abuse among the subjects was common. It is also interesting to note that less than a quarter of these young men had a psychiatric history, and only 6% were judged to have been psychotic at the time (Meloy, et al. 1991). These results are representative of only adolescent mass murderers; however, they indicate what qualities and characteristics are frequent of killers in general, especially when one considers the works of Freud and Mead and their theories of childhood socialization (Brym and Lie 2003). Further, the outcome does reflect a the same trend as the study by Lundy, Pfohl, and Kuperman, that is sociopathy is evident in most murderers.
Serial Murder and the Social Control Theory
According to social control theorists, people do not commit crimes (i.e., murder) because of their fear of punishment; thus, punishment, they believe, is a deterrent to committing crimes. But, fear of punishment alone is not enough to deter criminal behavior. It is believed that a sense of belonging to society, family, and education aid in abstaining from deviance. However, there is also a belief that youth can become either "isolated or insulated from criminal influences through what are termed 'containments' including a positive self-image, ego strength, high frustration tolerance, goal orientation, a sense of belongingness, consistent moral front, reinforcements of norms, goals, and values, effective supervision, discipline, and meaningful social role" (Hickey 1991). In 1969 the social control theory was expanded to introduce four elements of social bonds which are attachment, commitment, belief, and involvement. These are bonds that individuals can strengthen or weaken in relationship to society. For serial killers, it is said that they do not exhibit these requisite ties to peers, family, and community (Hickey 1991). A study by Kierkus and Baer examined the attachment element of social bonds associated with social control theory. A sample of 1,891 children from the province of Ontario was examined to determine if the parental attachment component of social control theory could explain the relationship between delinquency and family structure. A limitation of the data source was acknowledged because a split sample technique was utilized so that certain questions operationalized key variables. A random half of the total was administered the operationalized test. The findings show that family structure can be a significant predictor of delinquency and that the parental attachment component of social control theory can provide a reasonable explanation for why certain familial structures are related to delinquent behavior (Kierkus and Baer 2002). These results, like those discussed in the research on childhood, display that children who do not experience attachment to their parents, or are rejected by their parents, are highly more likely to become criminals than those children who have experienced parental attachment.
The Neutralization Theory and the Desire to Kill
The neutralization theory is the homeostasis of personal attitudes and values between conventional behavior and illegitimate behavior. It suggests that people such as serial murderers occasionally drift toward illegal behavior and occasionally the opposing direction—toward conventional behavior. In order for murderers to rationalize their moving toward violent actions they are required to apply their learned ways of neutralization. The techniques that killers use include denial—both of injury and of the victim, condemnation of the condemners, and the appeal to higher loyalties. Essentially, the techniques involved describe dehumanization, which is often representative of serial offenders. Though, there has been a basic problem with the neutralization theory. The problem is that it is extremely difficult to verify because one would have to be able to assert that the murderer neutralized his moral beliefs before acting in a violent manner. But, the way it seems now, serial offenders who rationalize their behavior tend to do it ex post facto, or after the fact that the deaths have already occurred (Hickey 1991).
In a study by Landsheer, Hart, and Kox, 2,699 children and young adults (12-25) were administered questionnaires via pen-and-paper, and via oral examination. The purpose was to determine how delinquents and non delinquents would rationalize criminal behavior on various levels of severity. The results projected that both delinquents and non delinquents saw damage to a familiar victim or an acquaintance as impermissible, while only delinquents find that harming an unknown victim is permissible. Thus, it was concluded that delinquents are influenced only by personal reasoning and rationalization (Landsheer, et al. 1994). This outcome shows that delinquents may commonly use the neutralization theory to rationalize their own improper behaviors. Hence, serial killers, who are most certainly delinquents, may also typically use the neutralization theory to justify their actions.
The Labeling Theory: A Social Cause
Erving Goffman founded the labeling theory in 1961. According to him, the labeling theory is considered to be a stigma attached to persons who have spent time in an institution such as a psychiatric facility or prison. Labeling theorists consider the original deviant act to be the 'primary deviance' (Hickey 1991). The 'secondary deviance' is said to be any acts which result in the person falling victim to the label society puts on him for his first deviance (Lovaglia 2003). Accordingly, being initially labeled a deviant, the offender is "carried along in a societal process of negative social sanctions that inevitably engender hostility and resentment in the offender" (Hickey 1991). Hickey says that labels are most often applied to minorities and the poor, but the fact that most serial killers are of at least middle-class socioeconomic standings and are white does not mean that the labeling theory can be disproved as causation for serial murder. It is plausible that negative labels created to differentiate between the rich and poor, powerful and the powerless, and white and nonwhite have affected serial murderers. It is unlikely that all serial killers destroy human life due to the labels they are stigmatized with. However, labeling can create psychological disparities between individuals. Stress and anxiety are the psychological effects of labeling, which in turn feed the need to right the wrongs and restore balance. Thus, "labeling theory is not concerned with the origins of serial killers' behavior but with the formation of the killers' status as the result of experiencing traumatic events during their formative years" (Hickey 1991).
The results of a study conducted by Anderson and Walsh can be used to relate the labeling theory to serial murder. In the study, 121 juvenile offenders were psychologically assessed between 1979 and 1984 with a series of tests. The children were 12-15 years old, including 84 males and 37 females. After 9.9 years, all 121 juveniles were followed up and classified as either guilty of a serious offense, or not guilty of a serious offense as an adult. The results show that 61 of the subjects were guilty, and 60 were not guilty. This means that just over half of the children were convicted of a serious offense as an adult after being a juvenile offender. This outcome can be related—even if only remotely—to the labeling theory because it identifies that more than 50% of juvenile delinquents previously labeled as offenders as children due to their primary deviance, later went on to commit a secondary deviant act (Anderson and Walsh 1998). However, it must be considered that the attribution of the secondary offense to the primary offense is definitely indirect. The study would have needed to examine the reasons for which a second offense occurred in order to prompt a direct relationship. But, overall, it can, with some certainty, be said that the labeling theory correctly identifies the motives of at least some offenders. Unfortunately, in specific relation to serial murder, the labeling theory can neither be proved nor disproved with these results.
Syndrome E: A Theory Too Emphatic?
The idea "Syndrome E" attempts to explain the correlation between the reason for which groups of common men kill innocent people, and disorders of the frontal brain. Moreover, it is an attempt to explain the concept of men remaining mentally sound as they become dulled rapidly to the atrocities they commit during war or in civil and ethical conflicts. The methods of forming the hypothesis of "Syndrome E" and proving its existence lies in past research gathered from such groups as World War II German Police and the Standford Prison Experiment. Analyzing the facts of such past instances shows that men between the ages of 15 and 50 years old are at high risk for the symptoms described under the new term "Syndrome E." Such symptoms include excessive ideation, repetitive acts of violence (the most prevalent), rapid desensitization to violence, diminished affective reactivity, hyper arousal, environmental dependency, group contagion, and failure to adapt to changing stimulus-reinforcement situations. The physical evidence reflected by the brains of the patients with "Syndrome E" is similar in structure to the brains of individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Results from studies on World War II German Police show that 80% of these men became killers of women and children, suggesting that these men bear symptoms of "Syndrome E"; on the other hand, only 10-20% of these men evaded active participation in the killing of these innocent victims (Fried 1997). These results are important when attempting to answer the question of what the sociological causes for serial murders are, because "Syndrome E" tends to provide a connection between the environmental and biological factors contributing to the deviant act coined serial murder. The theory of "Syndrome E" itself, however, is very specific to serial murderers who usually commit their atrocities under the authority of a higher power. But, that is not to say that other killers—more commonly known under the definition of the serial murderer—do not possess the qualities described by Fried here. Other studies would be necessary to prove or disprove the correlation of the theory of "Syndrome E" with all serial murderers, but these studies have not been conducted.
Summary and Explanation
The two sociological perspectives that were used to conduct research and examine the results were symbolic interaction and functionalism because they both exhibit fundamentals that can best answer the proposed: "What are the main sociological causes of deviant criminal behavior among serial killers?" Symbolic interaction would tend to focus on the symbolic meanings and reasons for which murder occurs. One approving of symbolic interaction might say that an unsteady relationship between two people or among a group of a few more people is the cause attached to the action of murder. This means that the events leading to serial murder and how it is perceived by the killer are the focal point for understanding criminal behavior. Symbolic interaction also would suggest that the deviant him/herself creates the circumstances to which she or he must react. This implies that after social (or environmental) factors are accounted for, the actual occurrence of murder is the result of a psychological (or biological) decision: the sole decision of the individual to act out on internal aggression. Therefore, symbolic interaction can be justified as a mixture of the two components of the age-old question of “nature vs. nurture” (Brym and Lie 2003).
When searching for the sociological causes for deviant criminal behavior, functionalism can also be an effective perspective for conducting research. The functionalist theory would likely tend to examine how society works together to continue its survival, but also how individuals are commonly affected by becoming outcasts to the structural norm. Functionalism would suggest that society is maintained by the cooperation of its individuals, but that any individual uncertain of his/her own status and role may tend to deviate from what is considered socially acceptable. Analogous to how a criminal might deviate from the larger group of moral beings is the example of DNA transcription. As DNA copies itself to produce new strands with the ultimate goal of asexual reproduction, there are an unspecific number of strands that will contain mutations, or, deviations, if you will. These mutations represent the criminals in the arbitrary “double-helix” world whereas serial killers represent criminals of the “real,” or sociological, world. And, though DNA mutations are usually attributed to biological error, this is certainly not true of the criminal mind which is determined also by environmental factors—society, more than less (Brym and Lie 2003).
With these two perspectives, many different aspects of the cause of serial murder have been illustrated, including the childhood, the psychological contributions, social control theory, neutralization theory, labeling theory, and "Syndrome E." The research in childhood showed that there is high likelihood that childhood victimization and/or exposure to violence is prevalent in serial murderers (Salter, et al. 2003, Roeder, et al., 1999, Swanston, et al. 1997, Haapasalo and Hamalainen 1996, and Fitzpatrick and Boldizar 1993). The examination of the psychological contributions to serial murder revealed that most serial killers are not psychotic, but are usually considered sociopathic, or have antisocial disorder (Anderson and Walsh 1998 and Meloy, et al. 1991). The results of the study on the attachment component of social control theory made evident that familial structures are related to delinquent behavior, and thus serial murder (Kierkus and Baer 2002). The neutralization theory suggested that many serial offenders move back and fourth between conventional and illegitimate behavior while justifying their criminal actions by supplementing dehumanization (Landsheer, et al. 1994). The labeling theory study found that many juvenile criminals (about 50%) will commit crimes later in life, which can partly be attributed to the stigma each juvenile receives as a first-time offender (Anderson and Walsh 1998). Finally, "Syndrome E" tries to explain serial murder by linking biological and environmental factors that influence causation of the act (Fried 1997).
Thus, the research so far has incorporated several different theories which all contribute to answering the proposed sociological question. And, because none of the proposed theories have been disproved, it appears that all of them could be considered the correct answer to what causes serial murder. However, it would be unjust to pick and choose among the topics discussed on the basis that exclusion would result in failure to correctly analyze the matter. So, a guide to understanding the sociological causation of serial murder lies in the combination of several theories, as Hickey states here: "Serial killers are influenced by many factors, not one, which snow-ball to create his or her existence" (Hickey 1991). To further examine the causes of serial murder, more research needs to be conducted in the field as the current resources have been exhausted.
The body of knowledge on serial murder is much too limited—but, in consideration, this is not a bad thing. As society we certainly do not want serial murder to occur more frequently, nor do we want it to occur at all. But, it does, and we need to take advantage of what we do know to bring us closer to a 'cure.' Thus far, information on serial murder has been more limited to specific theories due to the lack of available research. Research on serial murder needs to be extended in all areas in order for a better understanding to be gained on the causation of serial murder. Specific areas which I have found to be most incomplete include applicable research on the neutralization theory, studies on the labeling theory in relation to serial murder, and the relevance of "Syndrome E" as a cause. Though, arguably enough, the link to childhood experience, psychological contributions, and the social conflict theory could all be expanded as well. This general lack of knowledge shows us that finding a cure to serial murder is unlikely, or very distant at best. Each new study and new piece of literature on the topic must then be taken with a grain of salt to compensate for the uncertainty in such low numbers of offenders. I would particularly like to see research that incorporates several different theories on serial murder rather than just one or two. I feel that each new theory added to the list should be tested with other existing theories to prove or disprove whether it is a plausible reason for serial offense. Then, overall, the causes can be pinpointed with much more accuracy. Again, current research has failed to provide the means by which to do this with any sense of conviction.
Anderson, Laurence E. and James A. Walsh. 1998. "Prediction of Adult Criminal Status from Juvenile Psychological Assessment." Criminal Justice and Behavior 25:226-240. This article helped me to attempt to prove or disprove the labeling theory with respect to juveniles who were found to have committed later offenses.
Brym, Robert J. and John Lie. 2003. Sociology Your Compass for a New World. Canada: Thomson Learning Inc. This text helped me apply the work of Sigmund Freud and George Herbert Mead to my discussion on childhood. Also, this text helped me use two sociological perspectives in conducting my research.
Eager, Steven A.; Richard H. Doney; David A. Ford; Eric W. Hickey; Kenna Kiger; and Harold Vetter. 1990. Serial Murder An Elusive Phenomenon. New York, New York: Praeger Publishers. This reference was especially helpful in defining and researching the background of serial murder.
Fitzpatrick, Kevin M. and Janet P. Boldizar. 1993. "The Prevalence and Consequences of Exposure to Violence among African-American Youth." Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 32:424-431. This study related post-traumatic stress disorder to exposure to criminal violence, and was important because stress—or the inability to cope with it—is said to be one of the causes of serial murder.
Fox, James Alan and Jack Levin. 1994. Overkill Mass Murder and Serial Killing Exposed. New York, New York: Plenum Publishing Corporation. This reference was important to my studies because it aided in understanding the psychological contributions to the cause of serial murder.
Fried, Itzhak. 1997. "Syndrome E." The Lancet 350:1845-1848. This article used a proposed theory called "Syndrome E" to explain the cause of some serial murders. The theory is certainly important to consider because it has not yet been disproved.
Gresswell, David M. 1994. "Multiple Murder: A Review." British Journal of Criminology 34:1-14. This article helped me to depict a more accurate profile of the multiple murderer and also implemented many of the environmental, or sociological, reasons for which people kill.
Haapasalo, Jaana and Tiina Hamalainen. 1996. "Childhood Family Problems and Current Psychiatric Problems Among Young Violent and Property Offenders." Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 35:1394-1402. This article allowed me to draw strong conclusions about the relationship between homicidal offenders and childhood abuse and neglect.
Hickey, Eric W. 1991. Serial Murderers and Their Victims. Belmont, California: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company. This was an extremely helpful reference. It helped me to identify different social theories which can be applied to serial murder.
Jenkins, Philip. 1994. Using Murder The Social Construction of Serial Homicide. New York, New York: Aldine de Gruyter. Jenkins' book was a necessity in trying to establish the history of serial murder and the reasons for which I chose research on this topic.
Kierkus, Christopher A. and Douglas Baer. 2002. "A Social Control Explanation of the Relationship Between Family Structure and Delinquent Behavior." Canadian Journal of Criminology 44:425-459. This study related the attachment component of the social control theory to delinquent behavior and showed that family structure can play a major role in the future delinquency of a child.
Landsheer, J. A.; H. T. Hart; and W. Kox. 1994. "Delinquent Values and Victim Damage; Exploring the Limits of Neutralization Theory." British Journal of Criminology 34:44-55. This article guided me through the neutralization theory and provided conclusions about the theory that were used to prove its relevancy.
Lundy, Michael S.; Bruce M. Pfohl; and Samuel Kuperman. 1993. "Adult Criminality Among Formerly Hospitalized Child Psychiatric Patients." Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 32:568-577. This article aided me in determining the psychological contributions to serial murder and sociopathic behavior.
Meloy, J. Reid; Anthony G. Hempel; Kris Mohandie; Andrew A. Shiva; and Thomas B. Gray. 2001. "Offender and Offense Characteristics of a Nonrandom Sample of Adolescent Mass Murderers." Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 40:719. This study was important to me because it identified several of the common characteristics of mass murderers and provided some numerical percentage on psychological relevancy to this group.
Roeder, Kathryn; Kavin G. Lynch; and Daniel S. Nagin. 1999. "Modeling Uncertainty in Latent Class Membership: A Case Study in Criminology." Journal of the American Statistical Association 94:766. The results of this study were important because they showed not only a relationship between childhood factors and serial murder, but also psychological factors and serial murder.
Salter, Daniel; Dean McMillan; Mark Richards; Tiffany Talbot; Jill Hodges; Arnon Bentovim; Richard Hastings; Jim Stevenson; and David Skuse. 2003. "Development of Sexually Abusive Behavior in Sexually Victimized Males: A Longitudinal Study." The Lancet 361:471. This article revealed that there is a much higher likelihood that a child who has been sexually abused will become a sexual abuser as an adult than there is of a child who has not been abused. These results, thus, were useful in correlating the childhood rearing process to serial murder.
Swanston, Heather Y.; Jennifer S. Tebbutt; Brian I, O'Toole; and R. Kim Oates. 1997. "Sexually Abused Children 5 Years After Presentation: A Case-Control Study." Pediatrics 100:600-609. The outcome of this study was important because it showed that behavioral problems and depression are more frequent in children who have been abused compared to children who have not been abused.
Tithecott, Richard. 1997. Of Men and Monsters. Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press. The work of Tithecott was most useful to me in a mental way: I was able to comprehend the individualism of serial murder with this book.