Anda di halaman 1dari 12

Mikayl Nikola

Psychology 1100
Spring 2019
Final Project

Killer Kids, and what drives them

It’s not very often that you hear about a child killing another human being. Every time it

happens, it’s a tragedy for everyone involved. It is often discussed whether or not the parents

are to blame. Is a child born to kill, or is it simply a product of their environment? Can these

violent and scary actions simply be chalked up to the developmental capacity of an adolescent

and their need to partake in risky behavior? Is the child’s self-concept seriously damaged from

lack of acceptance or bullying? There are many types of children in the world, and many types

of children who kill. When watching the Netflix docuseries “Kids who Kill”, there was mention

of group occult types of killings, kids who killed alone, and kids who killed out of pure rage. In

some cases, it is obvious that the child is engaging in psychopathic behavior, but in other cases

it appears to be unknown why these events take place. Most of the time these killings are

brutal and deliberate, and rarely do the perpetrators show any remorse for their actions, as if

they are unaware of just how serious the offenses are. What drives a child to kill, is it a natural

instinct, or the way a child is raised and the environment around them? The parenting style is

likely to be questioned, as it is with almost anything a child does or does not do. A child’s

egocentrism may drive them to kill if they feel as though they are special, invincible, or
legendary. In a few of the cases that were discussed in the docuseries, peer pressure weighed

heavily on a child’s drive to kill another human being.

Nature Versus Nurture is often a topic used in psychology over the growth and

development span of a human being. Nature is something a human being is born with

genetically. These traits are inherited from the moment that conception occurs. Nurture

includes environmental influences. This could be the way a child was raised, the way a child is

fed, and even the way a mother ate during her pregnancy. When discussing kids who kill, this

topic is very prevalent. Whenever you hear of a child committing a crime, the integrity of the

parental structure is questioned. What did the parents do to make that child so angry? Where

were the parents? Why was that child not being supervised? Nurture plays a role in a large

majority of these killings based off of the discussions in the docuseries, but nature may play a

role as well. In one episode, a boy was born to a young mother. She told nobody about the birth

of her son, and after only a few short months she abandoned the child. He rotated through

foster homes until he was finally with a foster mother that agreed to keep him long term. It was

obvious that the boy was troubled, and she spent a lot of time and energy trying to

compensate. She quit her job and took him on as a full-time responsibility. In this case, nurture

wasn’t ample in the beginning, but later on he was very nurtured. Generally, a child will self-

right in this scenario, but for this boy, the trauma of his youngest years of development were

too much. He went on to kidnap, and brutally murder at least 5 small children from his

neighborhood despite his foster mother trying so hard to make the child feel loved and stable.

In yet another case, a young girl was born to a prostitute mother, who forced her child to

engage in risqué behavior with paying men from an extremely young age. One might think that
psychologically, the mother had her own set of imbalances that were passed on to the young

girl. This in addition to her severely neglected and abusive upbringing coupled together to

create a tragedy, when she brutally murdered a little boy that lived nearby. After the killing she

had the audacity to knock at the boy’s home and ask if she could see him in the coffin, before

his body was ever even found. Studies have shown that the majority of serial killers are

psychopaths, some with very warm and loving families, and positive upbringings. In these cases,

It is believed that mostly nature has an effect on the vicious behavior. Only two of the children

on the docuseries seemed to have loving and happy childhoods, while sadly, all of the other

children were bullied, neglected, abused, and mistreated in general. Attachment comes in to

play for these scenarios. If attachment doesn’t take place early on in development, is it then too

late for a child to live a normal life? Some children thrive no matter what environment they’re

brought up in, or how insecure their attachment is, while other children suffer and never

recover. There are many factors, as there are with anything studied in psychology. It’s not black

and white, the grey area is the interesting and puzzling part.

The style of parenting could very well play heavily into the motives of a child that would

kill someone. It fits perfectly with nature versus nurture as well. It begins as early as the

attachment phase of development. Most of the examples from this docuseries were extreme

cases of neglectful or uninvolved parents. In some cases, a neglectful or uninvolved parent

could be as simple as a mother that works and doesn’t have much time for her children. It

varies case by case. In the docuseries, one mother abandoned her new baby, teaching him from

the beginning of life that the world could not be trusted. The child likely had a very insecure

attachment to his mother. Children rely on routine and comfort, and he was bounced around
throughout the foster care system rather than being loved or cared for consistently. One

example used in the docuseries of a child in a loving family could even still be considered

neglectful. The child in this example exhibited unusual behavior from a very young age, and the

mother refused to get help for her child. The child killed and tortured animals, and the mother

knew about it. She was in denial, much to the detriment of her young child. Even though the

boy had what he needed and was very much loved by his family, he needed help. He was too

young to realize that he needed intervention and was denied that by his family for the sake of

appearances. This is neglectful only because denying a child proper treatment can be harmful

to their development, as well as harmful to people around the child. On the other hand, I

watched on episode about a boy with very authoritarian parents. This style of parenting can be

very controlling. Strict punishment is normal in this household. There isn’t a lot of emotional

exploration or expressions of affection. Children tend to feel like an employee, not a valued

member of the family. At times this style of parenting can hinge towards abusive, but of course

this is not always the case. The abuse can range from emotional abuse to physical abuse,

sometimes both. In the example from the episode mentioned above, this boy would get beaten

with a belt over tiny offences. Things like leaving the lid off the toothpaste or not closing a

cereal box. This type of abuse leaves a child feeling unloved, unwanted, and desperate to find a

place that they fit in. Children from authoritarian parents become guilty or depressed, and they

internalize feelings and frustrations. They often rebel as adolescents and leave home early.

Some children of authoritarian parents end up living happy and successful lives, but because of

the many other factors involved in this case, happiness was not the ending of the story. In this

case, the boy ended up killing another young neighborhood boy at the age of fourteen. The
killing was extremely brutal, and he showed no remorse. He almost seemed happy to be going

to prison and away from his father’s brutally strict punishments. A lot of the influences for a

child’s behavior come from outside the home, but in these extreme cases, nurture is a huge

part of their development, or lack thereof. All children need love and an environment that is

patient, and willing to help the child learn and grow. The absence of a loving home

environment doesn’t always lead a child to kill. In fact, it’s pretty rare statistically, according to

the CDC website, in 2015 a total of 605 juveniles were arrested for homicide in the US, but

these cases all seemed to be a mixture of less than favorable parenting, as well as unfavorable

inherited traits paired with the inability to provide the intervention necessary when problems

started with the children.

Adolescent Egocentrism is huge during middle childhood. Adolescent egocentrism

comes in to play for this case, and the adolescent feels as though their every move is being

examined by others, like they’re a famous Rockstar or something. This egocentrism is normal

for the most part, but paired with the extreme self-concept these girls created, it was a recipe

for disaster. Adolescents feel as though they are socially significant and unique, and sometimes

this is beneficial for society, but in cases of extreme self-esteem issues, the way they interpret

everything around them as judgement, tragedy can strike. They form a perception of others,

and how this relates to them and who they want to become. In the docuseries there was a

story about a small group of 13 and 14-year-old girls. The girls begin to really enjoy horror

movies, they start to relate with the killers in the films. The girls feed off of each other, paying

close attention to each other’s’ behavior with a desire to be powerful like the killers in the

movies. Since they all have fairly low self-esteem, they tend to do things to get the approval of
one another. One day while they sat in a circle slapping each other, it was one of their favorite

games, one girl took it too far. The other two immediately revolted. They beat her, and slit her

wrists, leaving her in a cellar to rot. She lived, which was a miracle! The other two girls told

police about their infatuation with the movies and didn’t quite seem to grasp the seriousness of

their offense. Both of the girls admitted to having low self-esteem. They were desperate to fit in

any way they could, and they felt like they really resonated with horror films and violence. They

had developed a self-concept that portrayed themselves like powerful killers, they glamorized

killing in their minds. Since killing was glamorous, their egocentrism drove them to kill, to be

legendary. Their concept of themselves, and their concept of killing were both thwarted

because of their severe self-esteem issues, and their struggle to fit in.

Peer pressure seemed to be a repetitive theme throughout the docuseries. Several

times it was said that a certain child would have never committed the crimes if they hadn’t

been accompanied by another child, or children. Peer pressure isn’t always a bad thing, but for

this docuseries, it was a horrible thing. Peer pressure is not always spoken, it is a drive for an

adolescent to fit in with their peers. Maybe in an academic league, there is peer pressure to

compete better than peers or receive the highest academic marks. A well-known example of

peer pressure is drug use, if one cool kid uses drugs, the other kids will feel compelled to use

drugs to impress the initial cool kid. The first episode was primarily focused on occult type

killings, all of which were committed with two or more children. For a specific example, in the

docuseries, a group of four boys around the age of 15 became friends. The boys enjoyed heavy

metal, the lyrics often talking about rape, murder, and the sacrificing of a virgin. The boys often

talked about how they’d like to do those things, but never made an actual plan. One cold night
they went to a campfire and invited a young “cool girl” to hang out and drink beers. Without a

word, the boys began beating her and stabbing her. Nobody begged anyone to join in, nobody

tried to convince anyone to do anything, yet somehow, they all joined into this sadistic ritual.

The boy considered to be the leader took the first move, and the others followed suit. This is

still considered peer pressure, an internal pressure to join in, a fear that whoever wasn’t in on it

would be killed next, a desire to impress the others, to be part of the team. During the court

trial it was discussed how two of the boys would have never committed a crime at all, let alone

a violent crime, had they not met the other two boys that were considered to be the “trouble

makers.” Another similar case involved a boy girl pair. This case was a bit more stereotypical for

peer pressure. The boy told the girl she was going to help him kill her mother, so they could be

together. The girl’s mother had made it clear that she did not approve of the relationship. She

did protest, but after much begging, bribing, and pleading, she caved. She helped the boy kill

her mother. They felt it was the only way to be together. Peer pressure comes in many forms

and has been proven to be a driving factor for homicide based off of the information in the

docuseries, since at least half of the killings described involved some type of peer pressure.

Adolescents are more susceptible to peer pressure than other age groups for various reasons.

Identity versus role confusion is huge for an adolescent, their main goal is to identify who they

are, and how they fit in. Since fitting in is so huge during this stage, adolescents will do a lot of

things to try to fit in, specifically with their peers. Peer pressure is really just encouragement to

conform. If a teen finds themselves in the wrong crowd, conforming leads to a slew of bad

behavior. If a teen finds themselves in a sports team or honors society, conforming is actually

Watching this docuseries, I felt like I saw a lot of the concepts that we learned in class

coming to life. The ones that I mentioned previously, as well as several others. Some of it was

uncomfortable for me, as we learned certain things in class I convinced myself that the

textbook had dramatized certain things. I feel like seeing the media portrayal changed my views

a little bit by opening my eyes to things I never really thought about. Seeing the way that a

mistreated child could easily justify heinous actions made me really reflect on myself and how I

treat others, especially young minded individuals. Part of me wishes that as soon as a family

found out they were expecting a baby, they were required to take a lifespan class. Learning

about some of these concepts and how a human develops and grows might help parents to

better nurture their child and give them the kind of childhood that they don’t need to recover

from. Even just understanding why a child behaves a certain way is very helpful. Understanding

where someone is coming from brings empathy and compassion rather than anger and

confusion. It’s really sad how many lives can be destroyed when a child doesn’t get what they

need during crucial development points. Whether it’s a loving home, a secure attachment, or

the feeling of acceptance, something is lacking in each one of the stories I watched in this

docuseries. Things that could have been such simple fixes, but they were missed, and people

died. Children died.

A topic I chose to research further was what drives a child to kill. In the article “From

abused child to serial killer: investigating nature vs nurture in methods of murder,” Dr Adrian

Raine discusses a specific variation of an A gene, he says that a carrier of this variation is more

likely to commit a violent crime. The variation alone, however, is not a guarantee that a crime

will be committed. Genetics and nurture work together to form the outcomes. The article
states that not all abused children become serial killers, and not all serial killers are victims of

abuse. The article goes on to give examples of significant adolescent killers and the relation to

physically abusive parents. A study was conducted with ex FBI profiler Joe Navarro to profile the

types of abuse with the type of killing. In this study they found that childhood rape victims were

more likely to conduct rape, lust, or anger killings, as well as postmortem sex. Children who

were abused psychologically were tied to crimes involving torture. Children who were

physically abused were tied to crimes where the body was tied or left at the scene. In the

Southern Illinois University Carbondale there was a publication titled “The relations between

parenting styles and juvenile delinquency.” In the study conducted to create this publication,

permissive parenting style yielded the highest scores correlated with juvenile delinquency.

Authoritarian was a close second, and in a further study it was concluded that there wasn’t

much of a difference between the two as far as delinquency. In the united states it’s reported

that about 80% of adolescents admitted to committing a crime that could have resulted in

being arrested. The study discussed that demanding parents can play a huge role in the stress

that causes a teen to act out and partake in risky or even deadly behaviors. Authoritarian

parents tend to be high in the demanding aspect of parenting, and low in responsiveness. They

are often described as cold. The extremes of each parenting style are variant and dependent on

many factors, but this style of parenting with the rigid discipline and limited emotional

availability can be very harmful to a child’s rapidly developing mind. Permissive parents can be

just as damaging but for a different slew of reasons. A permissive parent tends to set little to no

rules. The children do as they please, and for the phase of development that an adolescent is in,

this can be very harmful. The adolescent egocentrism doesn’t allow the teen to think clearly,
and without clear rules to follow, horrible things could follow. The big factors that lead to the

antisocial behavior conducive to committing a murder are lack of emotional support, rejection,

lack of supervision, and lack of discipline. On the other hand, though, too much discipline was

also listed. Parenting styles in either extreme can lead to high stress in the adolescent which

leads to risky behaviors. In an article from Psychology Today titled “Why Kids Kill Parents,” They

discuss how sometimes teens feel smothered at home, and unlike an adult, they can’t just

leave. When certain personality traits meet overly strict, or completely uninvolved parenting,

some teens may feel backed against a wall. Murder is the only way out in their still developing

minds. An analysis report from the FBI actually stated that in the great majority of cases, the

child who committed murder was a white male. The children who kill are almost always

adolescents. It makes sense after learning about all of the impulsive and risky behavior that

adolescents are engaged in. They walk around feeling like they’re center stage, the world

revolves on them and all of their overly charged emotions. Even in a good home, adolescents is

a difficult time in development for both the teen and their family. Some cases of adolescent

homicide are not the product of abuse or neglect, but sadly a severely mentally ill child. The

most often offenders are the severely abused. By severely abused, the article discusses sexual

abuse, frequent beatings, and extremely neglected children. 90% of children who murder their

own parents were severely abused by their parents before the murders took place. The children

described their crimes as the only way to escape the horrible conditions at home, an act of pure

desperation. The article doesn’t forget to mention the very few children who kill with no

remorse but come from a loving home. In interviewing 75 children charged with murder. Seven

of which killed their parents, and six out of that seven were severely abused. There isn’t a
statistic as a whole for how many children from loving homes go on to kill, but based off of this

particular study, that number is extremely low, one out of 75. Based on all of the articles I read

as well as the docuseries I watched, it seems as though a few big problems here are the

parenting styles, and the fact that a child’s development is not fully understood by the people

with the biggest impact on the child’s life. The psychology today article mentions that parents

need help with coping and enhancing good communication skills with their children, and I

completely agree. I feel that parents should be required to take a beginner level lifespan class

so that they can better understand what’s going on in a child’s life, and what they need from

their caregivers. Prevention education needs to be revamped to teach children about where

they can go if they’re being abused so they don’t feel so backed into a wall. Overall, it seems as

though parenting style does in fact have a correlation with homicides committed by

adolescents, but there are so many other factors that the information isn’t entirely concrete.

Having a neglectful parent alone will not ensure that the child will commit a crime, let alone a

murder. Not all authorian parents produce murderous children, and sometimes children from a

loving family will still go on to commit a homicide. Overall, this was an interesting topic for me

and I plan to use a lot of what I learned in my own life as a parent.

Works Cited

Davies, N. (2019, January 28). From Abused Child to Serial Killer: Investigating Nature vs Nurture

in Methods of Murder. Retrieved from


Figure 2f from: Irimia R, Gottschling M (2016) Taxonomic revision of Rochefortia Sw.

(Ehretiaceae, Boraginales). Biodiversity Data Journal 4: E7720. (n.d.). doi:10.3897/bdj.4.e7720.figure2f

Why Kids Kill Parents. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Yurtoğlu, N. (2018). Http://

sorunu-sebinkarahisar-ermeni-isyani20181092a4a8f.pdf. History Studies International Journal

of History,10(7), 241-264. doi:10.9737/hist.2018.658