Since we are talking about serial killers, I started a blog post about nature v. nurture. Some people do seem to be born bad. Others learn it from their environment. However, I stopped, because in reality, it doesn’t matter whether it’s more genetics than learned behaviors or vice-versa.
The problem is that both of these things give people an out. An excuse for their crimes, but there really is no excuse. Lots of people have rough childhoods and turn out fine. The world is littered with people born with mental health issues like ASPD and go on to be productive members of society.
The biggest problem with finding a genetic link to criminal behavior is that it then becomes no different than having Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or Lupus. Conditions where the symptoms can be managed, but not the disease itself. And we don’t really want that to happen, because instead of The Devil Made Me Do It we have I have bad genes defenses.
On the flip side of this, if we allow for too much environmental conditioning to play a part in how we view criminals, then we run the risk of misplacing the blame. Thousands of people go through bad things, listen to music with violent lyrics, and watch violent movies yet they do not go around blowing up buildings or shooting people from a tower or torturing young women in the back of vans.
I distinctly remember that after the Columbine Shootings in 1999, several of my favorite bands were suddenly in the eye of the public, who were out for blood. Rammstein, KMFDM, Marilyn Manson, and Nine Inch Nails were all mentioned by reporters as being among the favorites of the shooters. Yet, I had been listening to KMFDM and Nine Inch Nails since 1989 (yes, I was 9 when I was introduced to their music, I can’t remember when Manson and Rammstein reached my music radar but it was before the Columbine Shootings) and I hadn’t tried to blow up my school. I was even a social outcast, bullied, and teased, yet I still hadn’t considered shooting my fellow students. I just couldn’t wait to graduate and get away from all the teenage judgment. So, something besides their environment turned those two boys into killers (for the record, I also played Doom, along with a million other kids and enjoyed horror films, like most teenagers).
It would seem that a kind of perfect storm must exist to create real killers. A combination of nature and nurture in which the seeds of violence are sewn to create the monsters I research and write about. One, by itself, doesn’t explain the phenomenon. Some may be genetically predisposed to lack empathy, sympathy, and fear, but that alone does not mean they will be a criminal. Others may grow up in abusive families with addict parents who turn them over to foster care and this may make them high risk for criminal behaviors in the future. However, predisposition and high risk do not actually make a killer. But even the two of them together… Is that enough?
Or does some magical third ingredient exist that makes the mixture deadly? It seems likely that there is more involved than just a simple matter of nature v. nurture. If that was all, we would have lots more killers, especially female killers…