In most cases of adult male aggression, there are warning signs of trouble long before any significant violence takes place. We can see several cases of violence and alleged violence in the news and in history. We can compare what we know about them and see if there are commonalities.
David Berkowitz’ mother gave him up for adoption at birth because he was not wanted by her married lover. David was a bully who assaulted other teens in his neighborhood long before he killed his first victim. He was devastated when his adoptive mother died of cancer and his father remarried and moved to Florida without him. David, then, totally alone, soon came to be known as the Son of Sam, a feared serial killer who killed six and wounded many others. He had no empathy for his victims and roamed the streets at night looking for victims. Some assessed him as a Paranoid Schizophrenic. After incarceration, he told an interviewer that he was distressed about being unable to relate to females and have a female companion and was sexually aroused by killing females. He stated he faked schizophrenic symptoms but was a heavy user of psychedelic drugs.
Ted Kaczynski, the Unibomber, had been identified as having interpersonal, work, and mental health problems, also. Kaczynski was unable to relate to others in a reciprocal way, was suspected of having autism as a child, and was bullied by peers. He was depressed and distressed about not having a female companion. He had some work problems that related to a female co-worker. Some assessed him as a paranoid schizophrenic. He lived as a recluse and had problems getting along with his neighbors. Kaczynski killed or maimed over 30 people and had no empathy for his victims.
These are just examples. Many of the risk and resiliency factors that are related to chronically violence (greater than 3 assaults on others) are the same, regardless of age or gender. The differences arise when the combination of factors is examined by age and gender. Some factors are more relevant depending on age and gender. A review of the research literature and a study 200 adult males found the following factors to be associated with adult male violence (in order of the strength of their association with violence):
· More than 3 assaults against others
· Assault using a weapon
· Belief in the legitimacy of using violence as a way of solving problems or getting things done.
· Severe Behavior Problems as a youth or an adult (aggression, sexual assault, criminality, school or work behavior problems.
· Assaults causing harm to others that needed medical attention
· Assault of an authority figure such as a boss or policeman.
· Favorable attitudes toward criminal behavior, such as, “stores have insurance so it is OK to rob them.”
· Social group is criminal or substance abusing
· Moderate to severe behavior problems began before the age of 13
· Multiple criminal acts
· Lack of remorse or empathy for others
· Bullies others
· Chronic work behavior problems
· Multiple job losses. Can’t seem to hold a job.
· Severe neglect in the first 3 years of life.
The more of these factors that are present, the more likely that someone will act violently and needs appropriate intervention to prevent future tragedy. The following resiliency factors seem to help men take a non-violent path:
· Current long-term, relationship with a supportive, pro-social person who expects good boundaries and does not accept criminal behavior.
· Job or school success
· Participates in positive, pro-social activity
These factors and others are included in the research of the Risk Management Evaluation (RME) Tool developed by Dr. Kathryn Seifert. As the severity of behavior problems, including violence, increased, the RME score (number of risk factors) increased as well, indicating that the greater the number of specific risk factors the stronger the risk for violence. The items indicate where treatment emphasis should be placed: Anger management, aggression reduction, strengthening family relationships, skill building, complex trauma work, and enhancing work success. This research is important if we are going to develop procedures to prevent future violence.
The reason why there is no one profile of a serial murderer, is that each can have a unique combination of the 50 factors associated with violence. It is the number and severity of those factors that determines risk rather than a single profile. More needs to be known about the present suspects in the news to determine how many risk factors for violence they had and if early intervention might have prevented these tragedies.