Hickey’s Model of Serial Murder

Hickey’s Model of Serial Murder


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Various kinds of mass murder

E.g., 1) Simultaneous mass murderers: kill victims all at once; generally apprehended, commit suicide, killed by police, or turn themselves in (not an ongoing threat)














2) Serial murderer: kill over time with a cooling off period in between; make special efforts to elude capture and can extend over time; individualizes victims; usually a pattern (type of victim and/or methods/motives for killing)













Hickey’s Trauma Control Model

Hickey’s study based on approximately 400 (62 females and 337 males)


Females generally kill children, patients, and husbands; a few work in a team with a man












Hickey: Trauma Control Model

Recognizes that there is perhaps no etiology to explain the unexplainable

Perhaps, the question is impossible. How does a researcher explain the unexplainable?

So, Hickey examined these cases and simply looked for the factors they held in common. Since many other people share the factors, the etiological portion of the question is not addressed.












Common factors

1) Predispositional factors


Leaves open the possibility that there may exist one or more predispositional factors (e.g., head injury, brain pathology, XYY, or certain personality traits)

Perhaps, this factor is the etiological portion of the equation.













2) Traumatizations

Destabilizing or negative events occurring during the formative years

Rejections can include: unstable home life, death of parents, divorce, sexual abuse, physical abuse, failure, school ostracism, group exclusion














Combination of traumas is greater than one


Most individuals cope constructively with trauma, cope self-destructively, or cope destructively but not in a lethal manner.


Each person handles rejected differently and so may have to go back to factor 1.













3) Low Self-Esteem (Worthlessness)

Traumatization leads to low self-esteem

Collapse of self-esteem (feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and worthlessness)

Even if appear on the surface to not have this issue.

Individuals don’t cope with trauma constructively













4) Dissociation

Perceive themselves and their surroundings in a distorted perspective

Dissociation occurs: (an inner life that is lacking; a social/moral cripple)

To regain psychological equilibrium, construct masks, facades or a veneer of self-confidence and control.

For example, various serial killers have never been caught or are not caught for a long period of time (due to this façade).














Psychopaths: the typical profile

A few are mentally ill; most are psychopaths

Hickey argues that the psychopathy is a way of maintaining control and coping with the trauma(s).

Psychopaths as described by Levin and Fox have a “lobotomized morality” knowing the difference between right and wrong but not caring.













5) Facilitators

Commonly immerse themselves in facilitators: alcohol, drugs, pornography, or the occult















6) Fantasy

Violent fantasy is common among serial killers and is often fueled by facilitators.













Holmes and Deburger argue that there are many types of serial killers, from visionary (mentally Ill) to mission-oriented (mini-genocide) to hedonistic (psychopathic) to power/control( want control) to disciple (follow leader) to comfort (for money, a more common motivation of women) to power seekers (medical practitioners and power)

This shows the immense complexity of explaining even one type of criminal behavior













At the collective level, genocide is the most evil and destructive crime.

At the interpersonal level, mass murder is completely horrific and reprehensible.

What do you think is the appropriate punishment?

If you support the death penalty, obviously, these felons are most deserving.

If you do not support the death penalty, what do you think is appropriate punishment?












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