- Both genetics and upbringing play a significant role in the development of psychosocial behavior.
- Nature versus nurture is a phrase which was popularized by Francis Galton, the modern founder of behavioral genetics.
- Peter Vronsky is an investigative historian and journalist from Canada who wrote several books on the psychopathology of serial killers.
It would be easy if the answer were black-and-white, just like the question, but it is not. The reality is we do not know that for sure. If we were forced to answer such a question, the most reasonable answer would be "both." And that is the closest you will get to the truth; both genetics and upbringing play a significant role in the development of psychosocial behavior.
What Makes Someone A Murderer?
Peter Vronsky, an investigative historian and journalist from Canada asked himself this same question. Vronsky wrote several books on the psychopathology of serial killers and our understanding of their behavior. He was interested in the ways our understanding of murderers changes throughout history, taking into consideration the developments in the field of modern psychology.
Trying to find an answer to such a question brings us back to the notorious debate of nature versus nurture (a phrase popularized by Francis Galton, the modern founder of behavioral genetics), which has persisted throughout anthropology, psychology, and many other academic disciplines. This classic debate explores the role of genetics in how we develop as human beings in comparison to how much of ourselves is the byproduct of our culture, our environment, the society that surrounds us.
Unfortunately, we cannot ever know for sure. Still, the most rational solution seems to be to accept both of these notions as crucial factors in the development of the human condition, and also the most transparent reasons we have today to understand why someone starts murdering people and doing "evil "things. It is easier to believe in the existence of evil than it is to accept that some things happen because of chance.
Could He Have Escaped His Fate?
Todd Kohlhepp of South Carolina, a serial killer who denies that he is a serial killer, considers himself as a regular Joe that just does terrible things to people because they deserve it. As a child, he was a smart boy that loved to read and laugh with his mother, but soon after the divorce of his parents, he started becoming increasingly abusive towards his peers and their property, as well as abusing animals.
Adrian Raine, a neurocriminologist from the United Kingdom, suggests that parent-child separation before the age of 3 makes it more likely for the child to develop psychopathic behavior patterns as an adult, as was the case with Todd Kohlhepp. Since then, his life seemed to enter into a downward spiral of psychopathic behavior, intertwined with his genetics and upbringing, resulting in kidnaps, rapes, and murders in his adult life.
Almost A Psychopathic Murderer
There are also other unusual cases, like the neuroscientist James Fallon, who, upon viewing his brain scans, realized that he was an ideal candidate for a textbox psychopath. He researched his family tree and found out that it is filled with cases of alleged murderers across generations. Unlike Todd Kohlhepp, James explains that it might have been the devotion of his parents that saved him from a potentially disastrous future.
Fortunately enough, he pursued a career in neuroscience and murders books instead of people. Still, he is well-aware of his competitiveness, lack of self-control, and low empathy - all signs of a potential psychopath.