Social Construction of Serial Killers Allan Beberniss Deviance and Violence CJ266-01 / 1301A April 1st, 2013 In this essay we will cover the different theories that try to shed some light on how or what creates a serial killer. These theories include social structure, social class, social process, neutralization, social control and labeling theories. As it is nearly impossible to group all serial killers into any one theory, I will look at the similarities and differences between these theories to find some root concepts that are behind all of them as a whole.
First of all let’s examine social structure, social structure focuses on an individuals standing within the social community, their job, their financial situation, and their overall happiness with the level of success they have achieved will determine whether they will commit crime or not. Because higher levels of success exist within areas that have an abundance of jobs there are more people attracted to these areas. Where many people are present social labeling occurs.
Within this social community walls are created to block social gain from certain ethnic, racial, or other labeled groups of individuals that the society does not perceive as deserving of gain. This in turn results in pursuing of criminal acts to achieve financial success. It is believed through this theory that the serial killer is attracted to such areas because “High-density populations increase the probability of victimization because of impersonalization and frequent encounters with strangers” (Hickey, n. d. ).
For example, homeless people, prostitutes, and hitch hikers congregate in these types of areas to beg from as many people as possible. Because homeless people, prostitutes, hitch hikers and sometimes people that are just easily manipulated are targets for serial killers, this could provide some reasoning to where the majority of serial killers are present. Now, social class suggests that serial murder is performed based on the serial killers perception of power or lack of power over a particular group of people.
For example, because the majority of serial killers are male it can be perceived that the masculine form of sex is dominant in men over women and this gives the perception to the serial killer that he has power over a woman. Another example could be that if a serial killer does not feel excepted within their own perceived class, they will attempt to gain power over that perceived class by killing those “who represent to him (in their behavior, appearance and their location) the class that has rejected him. (Hickey, n. d. ). This in turn creates a feeling of power where it was perceived lacking to the serial killer. Much like the social structure theory the targets of this theory are the easily manipulated. “The majority of victims are women who share common characteristics and are considered to be without power and prestige—women in lower economic groups including prostitutes, runaways, homeless, minorities, the poor, and the elderly. ” (Hickey, n. d. ).
Social Process theory suggests that all individuals have the potential to turn to crime, the cause for turning to crime or not is based on each individual’s interactions and behavioral response with “peer-group pressure, family problems, poor school performance, legal entanglements, and other situations that can gradually steer them to criminal behavior. ” (Hickey, n. d. ). Examples may include children beaten or abused at a young developmental point in there lives can start to have behavioral problems early on, and throughout there school years when they start to build their own character traits.
Another prime example could be the concept of viewing violence first hand and not necessarily having been a participant or a victim. The simple action of seeing someone else killed or beaten and abused can have a similar result especially if this is seen during the early developmental stages of life. The neutralization theory is supporting the idea that if an individual is going to rationalize a step toward deviant behavior they must first “use learned techniques of neutralization.
These techniques include denial of responsibility, denial of injury, denial of the victim, condemnation of the condemners, and the appeal to higher loyalties—in other words “it was not my fault,” “no harm was done,” “they had it coming,” “society is to blame,” and “I did it for them, not me. ”” (Hickey, n. d. ). These are common ways offenders dehumanize the victim, pass blame, justify there actions and often times deny having anything to do with the situation. A serial killers goals in this theory is to make what there doing seem more acceptable and not as vial and degrading of an act that it really is.
An example for this theory is if an offender tries to convince the victim that they were asking to be raped by putting themselves out on a street corner as a prostitute. They justify the act as the victim wanted it, or they had it coming. “Social control theory introduced four elements of the social bond that apply to all social classes. These four elements—attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief—are bonds that individuals strengthen or weaken in relationship to the society in which they live.
Attachment to peers, schools, various social institutions, and especially family, is critical if the individual is to develop a sense of conscious concern for others and a general acceptance of the social norms. ” (Hickey, n. d. ). Serial killers in majority of cases have experienced gradual or traumatic breaks with one or both parents, either an abusive relationship, not receiving any love, care, or attention, or in some cases just not ever around at all.
An example of this is if an individual has lost their father in a hunting accident, and the mother blames that individual for the accident, starts doing drugs and alcohol to try and cope with her loss, then beats the individual when the drugs and alcohol enhance her feelings instead of help her cope. Last but certainly not least, the labeling theory is suggesting that “the stigma attached to persons who have spent time in an institution such as a prison or a psychiatric facility. This stigma is the result of having attracted the attention of society through abnormal or unacceptable behavior. These negative labels include “former mental patient,” “ex-convict,” “delinquent,” “stupid,” and “slut” inflict psychological damage on those to whom the labels are attached. ” (Hickey, n. d. ). An example of this is if an individual has sex with a few people in a row they could be called a slut, the negative label effects the persons self concept and inadequacy to have a steady relationship turns into sleeping with more and more individuals to compensate that feeling of inadequacy.
In conclusion, these theories are still just theories; along with factual evidence in a case by case basis these theories can help criminologists and detectives form predictions or educated guesses. This information in turn can help to prevent crimes and deter future crimes based on experiences in and around the criminal behaviors they come into contact with. However, the individuals that commit crimes come from all different walks of life, and from all different situations and backgrounds.
So it is still very impossible to group or categorize them all into one specific theory, and transform that theory in to a working platform for criminal cases. When I compare all the different types of theories out there I still come to a few similarities. Those similarities are that no matter where we go, what we see, or when in time we are, behavior and choice will always play a vital role in self development, and ultimately play a large part in the causation of criminal acts. References Hickey, E. Serial murderers and their victims. (4th ed. ). Fresno: Cengage Learning. (Hickey, n. d. ).