Social Construction of Serial Killers


The social construction of serial killers involves significant psychological distortions causing antisocial behavior. The inclination to commit violent actions is most often caused by problems with brain functioning or psychiatric illnesses. Both issues are directly related to society’s order and issues such as marginalization, bullying, and victimization. Serial killers are often diagnosed with psychopathy or schizophrenia, which excluding the genetic cases, are usually caused by the harmful impact of society. In other words, the community and its unspoken laws affect the occurrence of people who have psychological disorders. The social construction of serial killers is deformed under the impact of the problems within the society.

Social Structure and Class

The social structure and stratification can negatively affect the psychology of the stigmatized classes. Social and economic inequality result in adverse life conditions that affect personality formation. In extreme cases, the atmosphere surrounding a person can deal significant damage to psychology and brain functioning. The researchers consider that deviant behavior is primarily caused by the distance in the possibilities of different social groups (Cullen, 2020). Consequently, life dissatisfaction and attempts to overcome it, including by illegal means, are generated by social stratification and structure. Compared to ordinary people, psychopaths comprehend such an opportunity gap more dramatically by reacting overaggressive. This is caused by the inability to control emotions under the impact of damaged brain functioning.

Aileen Wuornos is an example of the correlation between the negative impacts of social stratification and the serial killer’s inclination. The poverty and adverse life in childhood have significantly impacted the life perception of this girl, causing her deviant behavior (Aileen Wuornos, n.d.). Such cases are essential for society to understand that some killers try to escape or silence the pain by killing others. When people cannot gain their desires through legal methods, they fall into committing crimes. However, when even less severe crimes cannot stop the despair, the psychological protective mechanism is activated, which results in violence (Meadows, 2018). Considering the social stratification, some families are trapped in the vicious circle of constant stigmatization and suffering, being deprived of the possibility of moving away from poverty.

Social Process and Neutralization

The neutralization process is one of the main characterizing features of serial killers. Any social function allocates the activation of particular ethical and moral values, law regulations, and communication rules. However, there are some situations when under specific pressure, people deactivate the values which manage the social process. Criminal neutralization is the unconscious brain activity that results in deviant behavior due to the temporary elimination of the social constructs (Cullen, 2020). Such situations are often related to conditioned biological disorders. For example, schizophrenia, in almost 90 percent of cases, is associated with the unconsciousness deviant behavior (Cullen, 2020). In many situations, after killing others, people cannot recall doing so. In psychopathy cases, people can consciously use neutralization. Some serial killers even consider the whole society from the perspective of neutralized values which allows them to commit devious crimes (Cullen, 2020). Such criminals are the most challenging to be identified because their actions are planned.

The theory of neutralization is related initially to criminal actions. Some people may deny the responsibility for committing a crime unconsciously when being involved in some misdemeanors. However, the primary difference between serial killers and ordinary people is the extent of the neutralization. The combination of exaggerated and atrophied emotions is inherent to the thinking process of serial killers (Cullen, 2020). Such criminals often understand that their actions cause no good to society. However, they often see some other greater aim that people with traditional values cannot comprehend.

Social Control and Labeling

Social control theory highlights the idea that people should be morally capable of estimating the advantages and disadvantages of committing crimes and consciously choosing the right path. However, in cases of serial killers, the theory cannot be efficiently applied because they primarily act against all established social norms. As a result, their behavior cannot be controlled because they are not able to choose what is correct due to the distorted values system. For example, for psychopaths, murder is not considered a crime because they may believe it is a revelation or revenge helping to make the world better by killing victims.

At the same time, labeling theory in terms of the serial killers’ personality construct shows that people’s behavior is not directly related to what society expects from them. It is not likely to label someone as a killer. Murder, especially recurrent, is a decision that itself conditioned by social or biological factors. Labeling theory can be related to the case of serial killers only from the perspective of affecting conditions. For example, the stigmatized minority psychology can be significantly damaged because of labeling, which can result in brain distortions increasing the chances of psychopathy occurrence.


The social construct of the personality of serial killers is distorted compared to ordinary people. Under the impact of different factors such as social and biological, people’s psychology and brain functioning are danged, which causes significant changes in world perception. Most of the analyzed theories and concepts of society formation are directly connected with the occurrence of serial killers. Violence existing within the society often stimulates the occurrence of murderers, serial killers, and potentially dangerous criminals. Even biological problems caused by genetically conditioned factors result from particular psychological issues. In most cases, society creates hazardous criminals and then tries to lower the crime rates. The more severe problems such as stigmatization, poverty, stratification, labeling, and others should be solved to minimize the number of serial killings and decrease the crime rates in general.


Aileen Wuornos. (n.d.). Biography.

Cullen, E. (2020). American evil: The psychology of serial killers. Waterside Press Ltd.

Meadows, R. (2018). Understanding violence and victimization (7th edition). Pearson Education.

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LawBirdie. "Social Construction of Serial Killers." May 16, 2023.