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How To Tell If Your Child Is A Serial Killer

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April 24th, 2012

Imagining that the cute, chubby-cheeked fellow on a mother's knee could become a cold-blooded killer may seem like parental paranoia to some, just some rumor that is spread in order to fill the virtual seats of accredited online forensic psychology degree programs.  But serial killers do grow up just like the rest of us. You never know: little Suzy or Billy may have all the nuts and bolts to wake up one fine morning and go on a killing rampage.  For parents who observe genuinely disturbing behaviors from their children on a regular basis, the question about a child becoming a potential serial killer is a frightful possibility.

What are the early warning signs? The three most common behaviors and traits that serial killers exhibited in their younger days include activities and characteristics, such as compulsive masturbation, daydreaming, a preference for isolation.  Each on its own, they are fairly harmless, common, in fact. One could argue that any given youth has shown at least one or two of these signs.  The difference lay in their intensity, frequency and combination, as determined by Ressler, Burgess and Douglas in their collaborative work, Sexual Homicide Patterns and Motives.  The authors also note potentially troubling behaviors, such as in chronic lying, pyromania, rebelliousness, bedwetting, cruelty to animals or other children and destruction of property.

Does this all mean bed-wetters will grow up to be serial killers?  Obviously not.  However, this behavior can be an indicator of a disturbed psyche that will benefit from a visit to a child psychologist, counselor or therapist.  A child who fantasizes may be perfectly normal, but one whose fantasies are extensive, cruel, destructive, and done in isolation might be a child to watch and help.

Even more unsettling is the study done by Scott Counseling, which lists behaviors common to serial killers in their childhoods.  It shows that home environment is a huge predictor in determining psychosis.  Serial killers frequently come from homes they have good reason to hate. Parents are frequently divorced, abusive and addicted to drugs, with criminal histories and similar dysfunctions.  Children from these homes frequently “act out” their hostilities in activities such as torturing small animals and viewing violent pornography, as well as fire-starting and other property-destroying activities. The upside is that parents seeking information and counseling about abnormal child behavior are immediately at lower risk than others, just because they noticed. The downside is that psychologists may look into household activities to fully diagnose the problem! Still, suffering through potentially awkward questions would be better than waking up to see a little darling standing overhead, ominously, with an axe.

The youngest serial killers were Mary Bell, the 10-year-old English girl who murdered numerous children, and Jesse Pomeroy, the young Boston teen in the 1870s who tortured and murdered children he could have played with.  Unfortunately, if a child is exhibiting some abnormal behaviors, then figuring out whether the kid is unique or at risk is better done sooner rather than later.

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