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Running head: CHILD ABUSE IN SERIAL KILLERS

Summary of the Incidence of Child Abuse in Serial Killers


Morgan Wheatley
Northern Oklahoma College

Running head: CHILD ABUSE IN SERIAL KILLERS


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Introduction
Why did I choose this topic? Serial Killers have always been very interesting to me. I have
read books on serial killers and written papers on Charles Manson and the Zodiac Killer. When I
was younger I wanted to be a forensic scientist. Criminal justice has always been interesting to
me. I have always been curious what makes serial killers murder. My background knowledge in
the topic is not very extensive, but I do have a general knowledge of a few big serial killers. I
hope to gain insight on why some serial killers do the things they do. The authors of this article
are Heather Mitchell and Michael G. Aamodt. The title of the article is The Incidence of Child
Abuse in Serial Killers. The authors main point is that child abuse is more common in serial
killers than the general population (Mitchell, Aamodt, 2005).
Opening
In the opening of their article, Mitchell and Aamodt give the definition of what classifies
someone as a serial killer. They go on to talk about why people are interested in serial killers.
They also state the factors that could contribute to someone becoming a serial killer. They go on
to say the most interesting factor may be serial killers that were abused as a child. Mitchell and
Aamodt give statistics they found showing how common child abuse is in serial killers.
Definition of Abuse
Beginning the section, Mitchell and Aamodt give the definitions for the five major types of
abuse: physical abuse- nonaccidental physical injury, psychological abuse-act that could be
psychologically damaging to the child, sexual abuse- sexual activity unhealthy for a child
considering their age and development, neglect- failing to supply necessities for the child, and
other- maltreatment not fitting in the three specific categories. With each definition of the type
of abuse the authors give an example of a serial killer that experienced the certain type of abuse

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and in what way they experienced it. The authors also explained the category of other was not
used in their research due to its inconsistent reporting. (Mitchell, Aamodt, 2005).
Types of Serial Killers
In this section, the authors talk about distinguishing the different types of killers and their
motives. According to Mitchell and Aamodt (2005) some motives are obtaining money, the
experience of the thrill, the sense of power, and the desire to rid the world of evil doers. (p. 41)
They state other motives do exist, but for their research they will deal with Lust Killers. Lust
Killers are defined as sometimes engaging in sex with someone and killing them afterwards
(Mitchell, Aamodt, 2005). They give examples of different Lust Killers whose sexual acts varied
depending on their own preference.
Method
In this section the authors explained how they would research the prevalence of child abuse
in Lust Killers and the resources they used. They explained how they determined what
characteristics the killer would have to be used in the data. They stated the internet, newspaper
articles and personal communication would be used to find out if the chosen killers had been
abused. They said if a credible source could not be found to back up a killers statement then
they would not use it in their data. Mitchell and Aamodt stated how many books and the internet
sites used to retrieve the information for their research. However, they explained some authors
had gotten their information from writing to the prisoners. They then go on to say the data
collected from the conducted research was compared to data from the general population.
Results
The percentage of abuse is given for 50 chosen Lust Killers in six categories. According to
Mitchell and Aamodt (2005) The breakdown of abuse was found as: some type of maltreatment

Running head: CHILD ABUSE IN SERIAL KILLERS


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(68%), physical abuse (36%), sexual abuse (26%), psychological abuse (50%), neglect (18%),
and no abuse (32%). (p. 42) They explain the serial killers are divided into organized,
disorganized and mixed offenders. (Mitchell, Aamodt, 2005). Organized killers have everything
planned out. Disorganized killers work off of opportunities and impulses. Mixed offenders have
characteristics of both organized and disorganized killers. Mitchell and Aamodt go on to say in
these subgroups of serial killers the percentages of abuse and each type of abuse were generally
the same. They then compared the data of the Lust Killers to the general population to see if
child abuse was more prevalent. They showed in all categories besides neglect the prevalence of
child abuse in Lust Killers was much higher than the prevalence in the general population. In the
case of neglect the two proportions were within 2% of each other.
Conclusion
In their conclusion, Mitchell and Aamodt (2005) state the proportion of child abuse in
serial killers is significantly higher than the normal United States population. (p. 44) They state
child abuse goes unreported quite often and their reported rates may not give an accurate
depiction of abuse sustained. They go on to state the proportions reported are based on reports
by social services and child protective services (Mitchell, Aamodt, 2005). The authors then state
the faults in the research. They explain sometimes the truthfulness of the information is
questionable, some killers say they were abused to give a reason for what they did. The authors
also state some killers do not report that they were mistreated as a child because they simply do
not want to admit it or do not think the way they were treated would be classified as abuse.
Mitchell and Aamodt (2005) then state With these considerations in mind, the prevalence of
child abuse in serial killers could be counted as a contributing factor toward creating a
dysfunctional way of dealing with others. (p. 45) They go on to say since a portion of the

Running head: CHILD ABUSE IN SERIAL KILLERS


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killers experienced no abuse, child abuse could just be a casual agent. The authors then give a
warning that the data found does not apply to all serial killers, only Lust Killers that caught
enough attention of the public to have books and articles written and web sites made to give
information on the killer. According to Mitchell and Aamodt (2005) The prevalence of abuse in
other types of killers (e.g., black widows, visionaries, thrill killers) may vary. (p. 45) They state
also serial killers that do not catch much public attention could also be different. Lastly,
according to Mitchell and Aamodt (2005) Further research utilizing persons from various
categories of serial killers and other variables-such as brain injury or anomalies, among the many
possible variables- is needed. (p. 45)

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References
Mitchell, H., Aamodt, M., (2005). The incidence of child abuse in serial killers. Journal of
Police and Criminal Psychology, Volume 20, pages 40-47. Retrieved from
http://ud4cl8nx8h.search.serialssolutions.com.argo.library.okstate.edu/?ctx_
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