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Neurodevelopmental and Psychosocial Risk Factors in Serial Killers and Mass Murderers

NCJ Number
Aggression and Violent Behavior Volume: 19 Issue: 3 Dated: May/June 2014 Pages: 288-301
Clare S. Allely; Helen Minnis; Lucy Thompson; Philip Wilson; Christopher Gillberg
Date Published
June 2014
14 pages
This article presents the results of a literature review of studies that examined the neurodevelopmental and psychosocial risk factors in serial killers and mass murderers.
This article reviewed studies that examined the neurodevelopmental and psychosocial risk factors associated with serial killers and mass murderers. Due to the rarity of mass and serial killings however, the review found few studies that examined the predisposing and precipitating factors leading up to these events. Factors that have been considered include autism spectrum disorder (ASD), head injuries, psychosocial mediators such as psychological or physical abuse, sexual deviancy and fantasies, an association between neurochemical imbalances and aggression, and the evolutionary psychological account of human aggression. Of the studies reviewed for this article, all dealt with single case reports and focused on individuals that were unlikely to be considered part of the general population. The review found that probably 10 percent of serial/mass killers have ASD and a similar proportion have had a head injury. In addition, the review suggests that these factors may interact in a complex interplay with psychosocial factors to produce these extreme forms of violence in this particular group of individuals. More research is needed in this area but due to the rarity of these events, it may be limited. Tables, figures, and references