Serial Killers & Childhood Trauma

Serial Killers & Childhood Trauma poster

Research Authorship:

Dani Adelstein, Ermanette Diaz, Matthew Hood, Caige McAuliffe, Tara Pickett, Melinda Rule, & Tes Tuason, Ph.D.

Faculty Mentor:

Dr. Tes Tuason | Brooks College of Health | Department of Public Health


The current qualitative study sought to investigate the top 10 serial killers, with the highest confirmed kills, in the United States between the 1970-90s. Unlike previous research, we have chosen to focus on multiple serial killers with the highest confirmed kills as opposed to doing a case study of only one individual with media notoriety. We worked from a constructivist paradigm approach to analyze the correlations between experience of childhood trauma, victim statistics (age, sex and ethnicity), and mode of murder. Working from a phenomenology of qualitative research method we reviewed theoretical ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) scores of each killer to quantify trauma statistics. Our data was compiled from secondary sources including,, and to include a wide range of qualitative variables. We hypothesize a correlation between type of child trauma and victim statistics (to include mode of murder). From our findings, we anticipate reviewing victim statistics and categorization of murder in correlation to childhood trauma (i.e childhood sexual trauma by a female and sexually charged murders of women). We discuss possible explanations of the variables’ correlation, as supported in previous research. From our preliminary data collection, we found that a majority of the killers have experienced childhood trauma, defined as: any physical, sexual, or emotional abuse including periods of long-term neglect or witness to extreme violence. The implication is that childhood trauma is a marked precursor for possible homicidal behavior as an adult.

3 thoughts on “Serial Killers & Childhood Trauma”

  1. Great poster! I hope you are not fed up hearing this: I am so proud of all your hard work in coming up with this research idea, gathering data, analyzing your results and putting this up in this attractive, clear and interesting poster! Looking forward to your paper.

  2. Kassie Terrell

    Wow! This is so interesting. I would love to hear more about the presence of ACEs and the perpetrators experience of being victimized as a child.

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