Many psychologists believe that the roots of aggression lie in childhood. In fact, there are various types of childhood trauma, and the sad truth is that some kids never recover.
Domestic violence, physical aggression, and sexual abuse are among the most devastating causes of emotional pain and behavioral problems. Data reveals that only in the U.S. between 3 and 10 million children (under 8) are victims of domestic violence. Talking about young kids, we should mention early childhood traumas, which is a term used to describe any emotional and physical violence that happens to kids aged 0-6.
Traumas can be caused not only by verbal abuse, physical aggression or neglect. Traumas can be caused by crime within the community, social pressure, stress due to medical interventions, and school problems.
On top of that, wars and natural disasters can also damage one’s emotional state.
While some children recover and become healthy individuals, others never overcome their emotional scars. Some kids might express various behavioral problems and become aggressive and abusive.
Spotting the first signs of psychopathology is crucial because some individuals may grow up evil and sadistic.
So let’s have a look at 15 kids with the worst childhoods… who turned into serial killers.
13 Albert DeSalvo
Let's start with the U.S.
Albert DeSalvo, known as the "Boston Strangler", admitted to killing 13 women between 1962 and 1964. There were many mysteries surrounding those tragedies. However, what triggered the public's attention the most was the fact that his victims were mainly older women.
There’s no excuse for aggression or murder. However, we have to put these murders in context and talk about DeSalvo’s childhood. He had a tough upbringing with a father who was an aggressive alcoholic. As a result of his difficult childhood, DeSalvo became delinquent.
That’s not surprising, though. As the influential psychologist Bandura claims in his Social Learning Theory, kids learn and imitate social behavior.
12 Andre Crawford
Andre Crawford is another serial killer who claims that after a childhood full of neglect, he developed hatred towards women. Andre Crawford killed 11 American women. His victims were vulnerable, sex workers or drug addicts. It’s believed that he also had sex with the corpses.
Psychologists working on his case say that due to abuse from his mother, Andre Crawford has become a monster and misogynist. That’s not an excuse, but we should admit that abuse and neglect in childhood can cause some irreparable damages. Even verbal abuse can be enough to turn someone into a serial killer.
11 Mary Bell
Mary Bell is another female killer who became notorious… at 11. She suffocated two toddlers. In fact, she said that she killed for pleasure and even carved the letter M on the body of one of the boys she murdered.
Mary grew up in the poor Scotswood area of Newcastle, where poverty paired perfectly with crime. On top of that, her mom was a prostitute who had Mary at the age of 16. What’s even worse is that her mom tried several times to kill Mary when she was still a baby.
Mary revealed that she was constantly abused and her mom forced her to engage in sex behavior from the age of five.
Hurting innocent kids is terrifying. It’s even more devastating when kids hurt kids. We shouldn’t justify any aggression. Still, her life as presented in 'Cries Unheard: The Story of Mary Bell', sheds some light on her acts.
10 Rose And Fred West
Still in England, Rose and Fred West are two notorious serial killers who created a home… known as the “House of Horrors.” They were a terrifying couple responsible for over 13 murders. Both of them grew up differently but had similar interests: torture, sexual sadism, and bondage. Fred grew up with an overprotective mother, while Rose had parents who suffered from mental issues. In fact, her mother had to undergo ECT while pregnant, a practice that fortunately is not used anymore.
What strikes people is that Fred and Rose West raped, tortured and killed even their own kids. Their daughter, Anna Marie West, is one of the victims that had to live not only with pain but guilt – guilt that her parents were serial killers.
In fact, a psychological experiment shows that if you remove a chimpanzee from its mother, it can get attached to a present object, even when the object is covered with metal spikes. Same with Anna Marrie - she simply needed love from her own torturers.
9 Andrei Chikatilo
Moving to Europe, Andrei Chikatilo is known as the Butcher of Rostov or the Red Ripper. These names can’t even represent the horror that still surrounds his personality. Chikatilo was a Soviet serial killer responsible for the death and mutilation of more than 53 women and kids between 1978 and 1990.
Maybe looking back, his behavior has some explanation. He grew up in Ukraine during the times when Stalin forced collectivization of agriculture, which caused mass famine. His parents worked hard but never had enough food, they were even forced to eat leaves to live. It’s believed that the family had another child before Chikatilo was born, but the child was cannibalized by starving neighbors. In fact, due to starvation, Chikatilo was often bullied for his thin figure at school.
In addition, Chikatilo witnessed the Nazi occupation of Ukraine – a mess of bombing, rape, and hard conditions.
As that wasn’t enough, his mother used to punish him as he was a bed wetter. So that's how society created a monster.
8 Vasili Komaroff
Vasili Komaroff was a Russian serial killer convicted for the killing of at least 29 people. Actually, he confessed to 33 murders.
Just like Chikatilo, Komaroff grew up in times of war and poverty. Can you imagine being surrounded by insecurity and constant fear for your life? Although the ghosts of Stalinism and Nazism are slowly vanishing, there are still millions of kids that live in war zones.
On top of that, Chikatilo was unfortunate in his family. Most of the members of his family were alcoholics, and he also became addicted to alcohol. People can’t escape from their roots. Actually, his second wife followed his example and started participating in the killings.
7 Katherine Knight
Serial killers can be found even in a paradise like Australia. Katherine Knight is one of the notorious killers there. She is convicted of the murder of her partner, John Price. However, the violence that took place is more than terrifying and she’s been sentenced to life imprisonment. Katherine skinned, cut into pieces and cooked her partner.
Prior the murder, Katherine was more than violent. She was a bully at school, aggressive in her relationships and dangerous to the people around her, including strangers. Katherine even tried to kill her first child, Melissa.
Why? Katherine Knight grew up in a dysfunctional family. Her stepfather was abusing and raping her mother, who in turn often told her kids she hated men, describing all details about her sex life. On top of that, Katherine was sexually abused by members of her family. Due to her terrible childhood, she developed a bipolar disorder.
6 Pedro Lopez
South America is known for some of the most terrible acts of violence. Pedro Lopez is a Colombian serial killer responsible for the killing of more than 300 girls. It’s hard to imagine; even though we present this as a number, each victim represents a universe of emotions, dreams and lost future.
Can we say that this monster is a human? Well, Pedro also suffered from a psychological trauma. He never met his father and grew up with a mother who was a prostitute. Witnessing sex acts affected his mental well-being.
At the age of 8, Lopez left his home and was taken by a man who repeatedly sodomized him. After he escaped, he was enrolled in a school for orphans where he was abused by a male teacher. He started showing delinquent behavior and served some time in jail. Lopez claimed that he was brutally gang raped in prison.
All that sexual abuse made him a monster.
5 Richard Kuklinski
Experts can’t fully understand a criminal mind. Still, it’s a fact that some people kill not only for joy or revenge… but simply because that’s their job. Richard Kuklinski was a famous contract killer who was convicted of murdering five people. The truth is that the exact number of people he killed remains a mystery. He was called “The Iceman” as he used to freeze his victims so the time of death would be unclear.
Why did he choose to become a hitman? Kuklinski grew up in a religious environment. He and his siblings were constantly abused by their parents. In fact, his older brother died as a result of the incredible physical aggression in their family.
4 Ed Gein
What links Kuklinski and Gein is the fact they both grew up in religious families. Ed Gein is a notorious killer who inspired many films: “Psycho” and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” are only a couple of them.
Gein had a father who was an alcoholic and a mother who was fanatic. He was so devoted to her that after she died he started robbing graves, experimenting with human taxidermy and practicing necrophilia.
Another thing that Gein suffered from during his childhood was social isolation. As he grew up in a small village protected by his mother, he never had any sane human relationship. His mother was convinced that sex is sinful. Thus, unconsciously, Ed developed some unhealthy interest and started killing females and studying their dead bodies.
According to Freud, the unconscious mind is the primary source of our behavior.
3 Tsutomi Miyazaki
Just like Ed Gein, Tsutomi Miyazaki started collecting body parts for trophies. He was known as the Little Girl Murderer as he killed four young girls in Japan between 1988 and 1989. He was a cannibal and practiced necrophilia.
The emotional trauma of his childhood is mainly related to his deformed hands. Due to his physical problems, he was often isolated at school. His emotional pain led him to some weird practices. He was photographing college tennis players using their pictures to masturbate. His oppressed sexuality led him to child pornography, which, believe it or not, was legal at that time…
Tsutomi blamed an entity called ‘Rat Man’, his alter ego, which forced him to kill.
2 Adam Lanza
School traumas can damage a person for life. Adam Lanza also suffered from problematic relationships. He wasn’t very popular at school and classmates described him as “deeply troubled.” Maybe the divorce of his parents or all those people labeling him (it’s believed that he was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome) led to the mass murder of 20 first-graders and 6 adults in 2012.
This tragedy can’t be described in words and sometimes, out of respect for the victims, there’s no need of comments.
The sad truth is that crime and violence exist. Sometimes aggression can be triggered by domestic violence or other types of childhood pain. However, we still don’t know if serial killers are born or created. The only thing we can do is give enough love to our little ones.
1 Aileen Wuornos
Probably you’ve seen the film “Monster”, based on the personal story of Aileen Wuornos, one of the most notorious female serial killers. She killed seven men before being arrested and sentenced to death.
The truth is that Aileen had a troubled childhood. Her parents were still teenagers and she never actually met her father. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and in jail at the time of her birth. When she was only 4, her mother abandoned her.
Aileen suffered not only from neglect - she was sexually abused by her grandfather and at the age of 14, she was raped by a friend of her grandfather who got her pregnant.
As she struggled to support herself, Aileen became a prostitute, with which sexual abuse continued. In fact, she killed her first victim in self-defense. So was she a murderer or simply a victim?
Sources: APA.org, Biography.com, Bustle.com, nctsn.org, PsychologyToday.com, TheGuardian.com