Why Serial Killers Kill

Home Page | Why Serial Killers Kill | Jeffrey Dahmer | Edward Gein | John Wayne Gacy | Pedro Alonzo Lopez | Female Serial Killers | Further Reading

Serial killers are often associated with murderers.  While it is true that they do murder, the word serial killer goes way beyond a simple “murderer”.  Where murderers usually kill someone they know for a specific reason, serial killers choose strangers as their victims, and do it for pleasure.  On various accounts it has been recorded that serial killers enjoy killing because they feel like they have power and control like an incredible high.  However, once the deed has been done it is immediately eliminated and the need to kill returns.  It is very similar to an addiction.

Various studies have indicated that serial killers are able to kill numerous times for many reasons. Some have biological abnormalities in the brain from: trauma, brain damage, or they were born with abnormal genetic traits. Adrian Rain a professor of psychology at the University of Southern California did a study on murderers and discovered that all of them had mild brain dysfunction. This plays a major role in why serial killers kill because the complications can go unnoticed in childhood, and they do not get proper psychological treatment. The complications can produce prefrontal dysfunction creating a low level of arousal which leads serial killers to commit violent crimes. The reason for this behavior is simple.  Under aroused people seek out violence to obtain normal arousal.  However, brain damage alone will not cause a person to commit violent acts. There needs to be a combination of brain damage, abuse, and psychiatric impairment.


Family History

            Family history and inadequate parenting are other predominant reasons that serial killers choose to kill.  Many families look entirely normal to outsiders.  They appear to have a functional family with a kind mother and father, but the relationships are very deceiving.  The most important adult figure in a child’s life is the mother.  However, many times the mother is distant, unloving or neglectful and the child is deprived of love—the most important thing in the relationship.  Numerous times the child is either ignored or the parents do not set any limits for the child and fail to tell them what is right and wrong. Since the child is given no rules to oblige by, they never truly comprehend that others are affected by their actions.  Abuse is another very common reason that people become serial killers. More than 40 percent of serial killers were abused as children, and over 70 percent of them stated that they witnessed sexual abuse or were victims sexually abused. Retired FBI agent Robert K. Ressler states that “The quality of a child’s attachments to others in the family is considered the most important factor in how he or she eventually relates to and values nonfamily members of society”.

Dysfunctional Sexual Development


           Another theory of why serial killers kill is dysfunctional sexual development.  Many serial killers were unable to develop social skills or a positive emotional relationship during adolescence.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that they were shy, some were very accommodating with others and talkative.  This is because they are hiding their isolation within. The loner is not involved in the normal activities of an adolescent, and because they do not attend dances or go to parties, they begin to develop fantasies as a substitute.  However, when they become more dependent on them, they begin to lose touch with reality. For example, at age twelve Jerome Brudos would kidnap girls that were about his age and take them to the family barn. Then he would order them to undress and take photos of them nude. Since Jerome was not sexually aware to go further, he would lock them in a corncrib and go away. Later, he would return with a different appearance.  He would then tell the girls that he was Jerome’s twin brother and was very kind to them professing that couldn’t believe that his brother locked them there. He would then proceed to ask them if Jerome had done anything to them. When the girls would tell him about he pictures, he would find the camera and disposes of it. Later he would tell them that his brother was going through counseling and that it would set him back a lot, and he would plead with them to keep it a secret. Since Jerome was not able to have normal sexual experiences with adults, he began to murder, when Jerome was older he began to kill his victims and take pictures of them.

Jerome Brudos

"I decided I wasn't ever going to get married because I never wanted to go through anything like that". -- Jeffrey Dahmer on his parents marriage


Jeffrey Dahmer