Sociological Perspective on Serial Killers and Serial Murder The topic of serial killers is something that is often not spoken about in today’s society, but it is a very interesting concept. Many people refrain from speaking about serial killers because of how gruesome some of their murders can be. Almost all serial killers are driven by or have experienced something that causes them to commit these horrible crimes. These crimes often differ from each other which makes them very interesting to observe and research.
The concept of serial killers is mostly thought out to be related only to deviance and crime, but sociology also plays an enormous role in it as well. Many different sociological concepts, theories, and groups can be applied to serial killers and serial murder. The learning theory, feminism theory, micro and macro levels of structure, and different driving forces behind serial killers will be talked about throughout this essay.
Differences Between Serial Killers and Mass Murder Before looking at the different sociological concepts, theories, and groups associated with serial killers and serial murder, it is important to understand the different definitions. Serial killers are defined as a type of killer who kills a number of people over a long period of time (Serial Killer Law & Legal Definition, n. d. ). These murders must all be separate and are usually driven by psychological and sociological forces. Mass murders are very unlike serial kills because they kill a large number of people, typically at the same time in a single location (Serial Killers Vs.
Mass Murderers, n. d. ). The main difference between the two is the time between the killings. Understanding the differences between serial killers and mass murder is important in order to investigate and study the different sociological abstracts that are related to them. Learning Theory as it Contributes to Serial Killers and Serial Murder Many topics and theories from sociology can be used to elaborate on serial killers. The first sociological theory that will be displayed is the social learning theory. The social learning theory is a theory that attempts to explain socialization and its effect of the development of the self.
It also considers the formation of one’s identity to be a learned response to social stimuli and it is used in sociology to primarily understand crime and deviance (Crossman, Social Learning Theory, 2014). This is one of the most important theories in relation to serial killers and serial murder because it explains that social factors are the primary driving forces in serial killers. An individual can learn and potentially unlearn the act of serial murder through different sociological situations that they are involved in throughout their lives.
Katz (1988) states in an article on serial murder that individuals learn serial murder as means to overcome humiliation and lost power (as cited in Hale, 1993). A serial killer’s “humiliation” is something that has occurred earlier in their lives and has effected them in a serious way. The serial killer then uses it to take their anger out on individuals who remind them of the humiliation that they experienced. Katz uses examples of infamous serial killers Ted Bundy and Jerome Henry Brudos to demonstrate how their humiliations affected the individuals whom they murdered.
Ted Bundy targeted women who resembled his former fiancee, who had brunette hair. Another killer, Jerome Henry Brudos, felt he was never accepted by his mother so most of his killings were taken out on strange women who served as a cleanse of his emotions. Serial murder can also be learned through means of the military. An article explains that the military provides the social context where servicemen learn aggression, violence, and murder (Castle & Hensley, 2002). The individual takes this learned knowledge and could potentially use it outside of the military as a means of committing serial murder.
A serial killer’s victims can almost always be related to something that they experienced earlier in their lives that impacted them in a negative way. Along with learning serial murder, serial killers can also unlearn the gruesome actions that they performed. A serial killer’s crimes are thought of as being gruesome and beyond rehabilitation. The psychological damage done to the serial killer is immense and often not able to be fixed, but some therapists are seeking out different ways to make the killers forget and even unlearn serial murder.
The article discusses the Alexander and French hypothesis, which states that the therapist could concentrate on the serial killer’s attention on the past to uncover the basis for these faulty generalizations in an attempt to expand the learning processes of the killer (Hale, 1993). According to this hypothesis, a therapist would attempt to reveal and speak about the serial killer’s past in order to find out why they committed the murders. The therapist should explain to the serial killers that their past humiliation is not serious and that it should not be taken so seriously.
By doing this, the serial killer will forget about the humiliation which would prevent them from committing any more crimes, therefore rehabilitating them. This approach of unlearning serial murder does not work on all individuals but is a strategy that can be tried. Macrostructures and Feminism Amongst Serial Killers Macrostructure is the large-scale structure or extent of something, which comprises all smaller structures or everything within that thing (TheFreeDictionary. com, 2016). Some macrostructures in sociology include gender, race, and age.
All of these macrostructures can be used in the analysis of serial killers in today’s society. Feminist theory can be used in correlation with macrostructures because they both relate to one another. Feminist theory analyzes the status of women and men in society and also questions the differences between them which includes race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality, and age (Crossman, Feminist Theory, 2014). Some of these macrostructures are used for analysis of serial killers. The feminism theory will be used to compare means and motives for both female and male serial killers.
Godwin (2000) stated in an article that the age of onset of the killer ranges from late 20s to early 30s (as cited in Arndt, Heitpas, & Juhu, 2004). As well as age, ethnicity was also discussed in the article. Jenkins (1993) estimated that 13% of American serial killers are African American and are seldom Hispanic or Asian (as cited in Arndt et al. , 2004). Macrostructures in sociology such as age and ethnicity were discussed in the previous article. These are macro-level because they are country wide and much larger than an individual person or group. Means and motives for serial killers are very different between males and females.
This concept is important because society views male serial killers very differently in comparison to female serial killers. Society views most serial killers as primarily male and does not account for females. Female serial killers differ from male serial killers in terms of motive and means for killing. Hickey (2010) stated in an article, that female motives for killing range from smothering their own children, to killing successive spouses for insurance money, to administering lethal injections to helpless people in their care (as cited in Harrison, Murphy, Ho, Bowers, & Flaherty, 2015).
Males often carry out their killings for a much different reason, like to satisfy a sexual related fantasy or idea, which will be further explained later in the essay. Macrostructure and feminist theory are closely related when used to observe and discuss serial killers and serial murder in todays society. Sociological Driving Forces of Serial Killers There are many different sociological factors that can drive a serial killer to perform these often gruesome serial murders. Some serial killers share the same driving forces; others are ompletely different from one another. These driving forces can be observed and analyzed on an individual and familial level. These can be described as very small groups which fall under the category of microstructure in sociology. Many serial killers are motivated by anger and want to take it out on their victims. Jeffery Dahmer had a much different driving force for the crimes he committed. Levin stated in an article that Jeffrey Dahmer is said to have been motivated by a different desire, he wanted the company of his victims (as cited in Geis, 2008).
Jeffrey Dahmer did this so that he could build intimate relationships with his victims that he was not able to build with other individuals. This intimate relationship with the victims is what drove serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer to kill. In another article, serial killer Dennis Rader explained what caused him to commit all of his crimes. Radar uses sexual fantasy to account for the motivation behind (and justification for) many of his crimes and specific actions. ” (Bartels & Parsons, 2009).
Serial killers can be analyzed and observed to see what sociological forces drive them to perform these crimes. Most serial killers are driven by similar forces but some have much different ones, like Jeffrey Dahmer. Conclusion There are many different sociological concepts, theories, and groups that relate to and influence serial killers. Learning theory, feminism theory, microstructure, and macrostructure are all important sociological theories and concepts that relate directly to serial killers.
Serial killers are able to learn and unlearn serial murder, and military experience can be associated with serial murder in some instances. Feminism theory relates to serial killers because it uses macrostructures to differentiate between female and male serial killers in society. Much smaller microstructural concepts show the individual sociological forces that drive serial killers to kill. In conclusion, the topic of serial killers and serial murder is very sociologically influenced and can be shown through the means of different sociological concepts, theories, and groups.