Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

Some thoughts on the psychological roots of the behavior of serial killers as narcissists: An object relations perspective

Zelda Knight, PhD (Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa)


This article documents the definition and context of serial murder. The main theoretical framework adopted is object relations theories which have been particularly renowned for drawing close attention to the process and development of the early dyadic mother-infant relationship as a primary departure point for understanding both healthy and pathological psychic development. These theories have been especially comprehensive in depicting the inner world of the infant as magical and terrifying, fractured and kaleidoscopic. Within the context of narcissistic dynamics, one aspect of human behavior may be described as nonpathological and the basis for healthy ambitions and ideals, while another may be identified as pathological and destructive so that individuals behave in grandiose and murderous ways. Some of these individuals are sadistic serial killers who enjoy the sexual thrill of murdering and who are both pathological and destructive narcissists. This study examines the psychological roots of the behavior of sexually motivated male serial killers, and why they do what they do. The context of serial murder is presented, with a refined definition of sexually motivated serial murder. The development of narcissism is described as this forms the basis for understanding such behavior.

Full Text: PDF  pp. 1189-1206