Date Presented

Spring 5-1-2023

Document Type



Biological Science

First Advisor

Christine Terry, PhD

Second Advisor

Price Blair, PhD

Third Advisor

Virginia Cylke, PhD


Investigating the relationship between a serial killer’s nature (their biological makeup) and nurture (their learned behavior) is important due to the fact that any trauma they experienced as a child makes them more likely to offend as an adult. This study investigated how nature (e.g., biological brain damage and the MAOA gene) and nurture (e.g., their physical upbringing) affected serial killers, specifically the number of their victims, during the ‘serial killer era’ (1970 to 1999). All serial killers meeting our criteria were studied to determine to what extent they were abused as a child, the number of victims they had, and the number of head injuries they had. Previous studies provided additional context to the potential roles of brain damage and variants of the MAOA gene in serial killings. Data was quantified and subjected to statistical analyses (i.e., t-test, univariate analysis, and multivariate analysis) to determine if there was any correlation between childhood abuse, brain damage, and the number of the serial killer’s victims. Because brain scans and MAOA gene sequencing are only available for select serial killers, this data was qualitatively described. This study provides greater awareness to the effects of childhood abuse, traumatic brain injuries, and genetics in producing serial killers, which could ultimately lead to potential interventions in childhood that prevent serial killers from making the conscious decision to hurt others as adults.