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Scientists describe indicators helping to spot future murderers of family members

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Posted August 31, 2015

Minds of the murderers have always interested people. What has to happen to a person in his life that he would kill another person clearly understanding what he is doing? And how some people can murder intimate partners and family members?

Statistically, 25% of all the women will suffer from severe domestic violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes. Some of them may get murdered, because they failed to recognize the signs of potential danger of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness or criminal past. Image credit: West Midlands Police from West Midlands, United Kingdom via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 2.0

Statistically, 25% of all the women will suffer from severe domestic violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes. Some of them may get murdered, because they failed to recognize the signs of potential danger of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness or criminal past. Image credit: West Midlands Police from West Midlands, United Kingdom via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientists from the Northwestern University have conducted a study and found that murderers who kill their intimate partners or family members have a significantly different psychological and forensic profile from murderers who kill strangers.

This type of homicide, also known as spontaneous domestic homicide, is emotionally driven and not premeditated. It is one of the most common and frequent types of murder in the United States. Disturbingly, one third of murdered women in U. S. are killed by their male partners – husbands, boyfriends, ex-husbands, ex-boyfriends and so on. Furthermore, other studies have revealed another shocking detail – as many as 25% of all the women will suffer from severe domestic violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes. Therefore, knowing more about psychology of murderers who kill their romantic partners and family members could help creating preventive measures in the future.

In fact, when these findings will be more systematic, it should not require a lot of efforts to recognize men who are at risk of committing domestic homicide. That is because researchers made a conclusion that people who committed such crimes are not so much different from each other. This study revealed that they have several very important similarities that could help institutions to recognize couples at risk of such extreme cases of domestic violence. Usually, people who commit domestic homicide have more severe mental illness (particularly psychotic disorders), few previous felony convictions, are less intelligent and have more cognitive impairment.

Robert Hanlon, director of the forensic psychology research lab at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and lead author of the study, explained” “these crimes are often preventable if family members are more informed about the potential danger from having someone who is severely mentally ill in the home and who may have shown violent tendencies in the past. Family members may lull themselves into a state of false beliefs thinking ‘my son would never hurt me’ or ‘my husband may have a short fuse but he would never seriously harm me.”

However, this son of husband may hurt his mother or wife without much planning in a spontaneous emotional crime. These murders are usually done in the heat of passion, are not premeditated, have no strategy or any planning involved. What they do have involved usually is drugs or alcohol use and often are driven by jealousy or revenge following a separation or a split.

Scientists note that such emotional murders can be very brutal – a man can grab a knife in the heat of the moment and repeatedly stab his intimate partner many times until realising what he has done. Of course, not every case of domestic homicide involves abuse of drugs or alcohol – another group in risk is people with mental disorders. Scientists note that some family members may simply be psychotic and think the victim is plotting against him. All these signs have to be observed and may indicate that the risk of violent actions.

Robert Hanlon interviewed and personally evaluated 153 murderers for more than 1,500 hours. This allowed him to spot and describe patterns and trends that connect all these cases and come up with indicators mentioned above. Most important are drug or alcohol abuse, criminal past and history of mental illnesses. Although not all people should be isolated who have one or several of these indicators, people around them should pay more attention to their behaviour and not hesitate to seek for assistance if needed.

Scientists recommend that people around a person who has some of these indicators should notify the authorities that they are concerned about behaviour of their family member. Most importantly, they should remove themselves from potential danger – they can stay with their friends or relatives and inform institutions that they do not feel safe with that particular person. The most important advice is to not be fooled by promises and short periods of peace in the house.

Source: northwestern.edu

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