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Aileen Wuornos was a female serial murderer who operated in Florida in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Wuornos was born on February 29, 1956, in Rochester, Michigan. She grew up in a chaotic and dysfunctional environment where she struggled to get along with her family because her parents divorced when she was a young girl (Wuornos, 2017). The turbulent childhood Wuornos led, and these early encounters probably shaped her decision to become a criminal. Besides, her primary target for crimes were men who, as a hitchhiker, she would pick up as her prey, have sex with them, and then shoot them. It is worth noting that Wuornos’s murder crimes are majorly motivated by monetary gain, self-defence, and a pervasive loathing of men.
Additionally, Wuornos only attended a few formal schools, limiting her education. From an early age, she left high school and got involved in several illicit pursuits, including sex work. Due to her upbringing, it is possible that she fell into crime due to unstable chances and a chaotic lifestyle. It is important to remember that Aileen Wuornos dealt with severe personal struggles. Ideally, she has a history of tumultuous relationships and substance misuse issues. She probably had mental health problems and unpredictable conduct due to her rough background and horrible experiences working in sex.
After being apprehended in 1991 and later found guilty of killing seven individuals, Wuornos’ atrocities stopped. She became a divisive figure after her trial, with some calling for her execution and others pleading for mercy, given her complicated past (Pearson, 2007). Her trial garnered significant media coverage. Wuornos finally received a death penalty verdict in the end, and on October 9, 2002, he was put to death by lethal injection.
Impact of biological factors
Biological factors in Wuornos’ case might have influenced her behaviour and helped her develop into a serial killer. A person’s conduct can be influenced by genetics, and certain people may be predisposed to committing aggressive or illegal behaviours. Even though it is crucial to emphasize that biology cannot explain criminal behaviour independently, certain parts of her biology may have impacted her behaviour. Her genetic makeup is one possible biological component that might have affected Wuornos. Research has demonstrated that impulsivity and aggression are only two examples of the many behavioural traits that can be influenced by genetic variables (Hagan, 2018). Wuornos likely had some hereditary traits that affected her behaviour. Some people may have a natural propensity to participate in aggressive or criminal activities.
The possible effects of neurological disorders or brain abnormalities must also be considered a critical biological aspect. It is well established that brain abnormalities can impact someone’s ability to manage emotions, impulses, and decision-making. These elements may affect a person’s capacity for social situation processing and appropriate social response. Neurological or brain disorders could have impacted Wuornos’ judgment, emotional stability, and inclination for violent behaviour (Hagan, 2018). In addition, hormonal abnormalities may also influence behaviour. For instance, violent and impulsive conduct has been linked to hormonal imbalances in serotonin or dopamine (Wuornos, 2017). These hormonal imbalances and others could have affected Wuornos’ predisposition for violence and her inability to restrain her impulses.
Impact of developmental factors
Developmental factors most likely substantially influenced her conduct and the course of her life. Her problematic background, marked by a turbulent home environment, may have significantly impacted how she behaved and felt about herself. Feelings of abandonment, neglect, and a lack of positive role models may have been caused by the absence of solid familial support and the prevalence of dysfunction, which can significantly impact a person’s development (Pearson, 2007). Wuornos was probably exposed to various negative experiences and potentially damaging influences due to her early involvement in illicit activities, such as performing sex work, from a young age. These events may have further affected her worldview, self-perception, and interpersonal connections, potentially resulting in a cycle of destructive actions.
Additionally, accumulating traumatic events, such as physical and sexual abuse, can profoundly influence a person’s development. Such events may result in the emergence of several psychiatric conditions, such as complex trauma, emotional dysregulation, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Hagan, 2018). One’s capacity to establish healthy relationships, manage stress, and control emotions may be impacted by these elements, potentially raising the chance of acting violently or criminally.
Impact of environmental factors
The environment where Wuornos resided and worked as a prostitute most certainly impacted how she behaved. In her line of work, she was constantly exposed to risk, aggression, and exploitation, which could have made her feel helpless and forced her to defend herself. Her susceptibility may have been made worse by the temporary nature of her lifestyle and the absence of social support and financial security, which may have fueled her desperation and violence (Wuornos, 2017). Wuornos may have been driven to commit crimes by a combination of her past, the environment in which she lived, and the risks involved in her line of work.
Application of theories
Various theories can offer insights from various angles when examining the motivation behind Aileen Wuornos’ behaviour. According to theories on genetic predisposition or neurobiological causes, Wuornos may have had innate characteristics or abnormalities in her brain that contributed to her aggressive behaviour (Hagan, 2018). Psychological theories like psychodynamic or personality theory may investigate underlying problems like unresolved childhood trauma, personality disorders, or a skewed self-perception that influenced her behaviour. Social theories could highlight the role of social and environmental factors on her conduct by looking at the impact of her childhood, exposure to violence, and experiences in the sex business (Hagan, 2018). Finally, theories of criminal violence that focus on routine behaviour or rational decision-making may highlight the contextual elements, opportunity structures, and logical thought processes that influenced Wuornos’ decision to target her male victims. One can understand Wuornos’ complex motivations more deeply by looking at these many theoretical vantage points.
Hagan, F. E. (2018). Introduction to criminology: Theories, methods, and criminal behaviour. Sage Publications.
Pearson, K. (2007). The trouble with Aileen Wuornos, feminism’s “first serial killer.” Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, 4(3): 256–275. doi:10.1080/14791420701472791.
Wuornos, A. (2017). Biography. https://www.biography.com/crime-figure/aileen-wuornos.