The social construction of a serial killer can be comprehended by exploring the different theories available to explain the same. The purpose of the different theories is to provide a theoretical understanding of how a serial killer can be described or what contributes to a serial killer. Thus, the theories include social structure, social class, social process, neutralization, labeling theories, and the social control theory. Notably, these theories differ concerning what they advance as the main motivation behind serial killing. For instance, social control theory advances that the lack of attachment should be blamed for most people becoming serial killers. On the other hand, labeling theorists advance that serial killers result because of the societal stigma and profiling.

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This paper explicates the social construction of a serial killer and provides differences inherent among the theories.

Social Structure

According to Waller, Allhoff, and Doris (2010), social structure theory explains a person tendency to become a serial killer through the observation of the soci-economic standing of an individual. Thus, the theory asserts that people who are stifled financially or lack social success are more inclined to become serial killers, as this provides them an avenue of getting what they do not have. It is essential to note that serial killers do not belong to a certain ethnic or racial make up. However, there are some cases that force people from a certain racial, sub-cultural or ethnic standing to become serial killers, and this is blamed on the economic standing of the aforementioned groups. For instance, a person born in a poor family will be more likely to be socialized in the culture of poverty, and in order to get out of such a situation, the person kills in order to get what his family could not provide.

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Social Class

This theory advances that serial killers mostly are on the margin of the lower, middle or upper class. Hickey (2006) advances that the serial killers in society usually feel secluded from violence within their social class. Feminism and patriarchy feature in social class theory as one of the contributors to serial killers. Holmes and Holmes (2009) advance that power plays a critical part in this matter as females end up as serial killers because of male dominance in society. Thus, sex forms is the main basis of social class as it depicts power. However, social class contributes to serial killers mostly among the lower class who are either working or form the under class. A clear example in this context is that many people in the lower class usually have financial strain and this explains the escalating violence among the lower class. In turn, individuals from the lower class become serial killers. Another example is the pressure on women within the lower class. This is because, in many lower class families, it is only one parent who provides for the family, and due to the pressure on the women, which is depicted by the male’s financial power motivates them to become serial killers. Reports indicate that sometimes such women end up killing their husbands and children, which qualifies them as serial killers.

Social Process

The social process theory differs from social class and social structure theory in that it asserts that anyone is prone to become a serial killer. According to Waller, Allhoff, and Doris (2010), the family and society are the main influences on a person’s resultant as a serial killer. This theory advances that childhood experiences such as victimization and those who were brought up by antagonistic and hostile parents were more prone to become serial killers. Thus, this theory indicates that children raised in hostile families with many cases of violence are nurtured that way, and that is the reason that they depict social incompetence. For instance, a child whose parents are usually fighting will learn and become accustomed to the behavior from the parents and this contributes to such a child becoming a serial killer in the future. It is also indicated that those children that were raised in families where they felt rejection tend to become hostile, aggressive or antagonistic. Thus, the socialization process is blamed entirely for serial killers.


This theory focuses significantly on the serial killers. The theory advances that the person in question here, who is the serial killer neutralizes his personal values and attitudes as they drift between illegitimate behavior and behavior deemed conventional. Thus, several forms of neutralization have been identified in this context and they include denial, appealing to higher authorities, and condemning of those people that condemn the serial killer’s behavior. In most instances, the type of neutralization employed by serial killers is that what is done to them is tantamount to dehumanization.  In some cases, Holmes and Holmes (2009) observe the serial killers deem it permissible injuring a person that they do not know. A good example in this context is when a person accused of killing a person whom he actually murdered, but ends up denying as a defensive tactic. The person will probably be depicting feigned innocence.

Social Control

The social control theory differs from other theories in this category because it advances that serial killers commit crimes because they view punishment as a deterrent of the aforementioned. Waller, Allhoff, and Doris (2010) indicate that serial killers feel that the fear of punishment alone cannot restrain them from committing a crime. An expansion of the social control theory saw the introduction of attachment, involvement, belief, and commitment. These four characteristics contribute to the facilitation or break up of relationships in society. This theory has some resemblance to the social process theory. Research reveals that serial killers lack these qualities to family, friends, and other people. Thus, it can be indicated that a lack of attachment in this case is what makes up a serial killer. A good example in this context is a child who grew up in a family that did deny him a sense of belonging or attachment. The child is more inclined to become a serial killer because of the feeling that society does not care.

Labeling Theory

According to Waller, Allhoff, and Doris (2010), there is an admission of labels to people deemed to be offenders. Consequently, these labels engender the hostile behavior within the individual, that has been labelled, which explains serial killer’s behavior. Thus, in this context, the sanctions by the society that are negative are to be blamed for the deviant behavior depicted by serial killers. This theory differs from other theories as it focuses on the current life of an offender unlike the other theories that look into a serial killer’s past to explain the cause for his deviant behavior. A good example in this context is when a person is jailed for shoplifting. When the society gets wind of the individual’s wayward behavior, they will disassociate themselves with the individual, who in turn promotes the deviancy of the individual in question.

In conclusion, serial killer refers to an individual that has killed two or more people within a short span of time. Several theories have been advanced to explain what leads a person to become a serial killer. These theories include social structure, social class, social process, labeling, and neutralization. The theories differ as they utilize different topics as their main argument. Nonetheless, they all provide a succint explanation to how a person ends up as a serial killer.

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