to think some people are just born evil?

(228 Posts)
themomentsinbetween Sat 29-Dec-12 16:49:45

Do you think some people are born bad?

Or is it there surroundings and people in their lives that make them bad.

For example, Thompson and Venables, were they just born bad?

Charles Manson?

Harold Shipman?

Good people don't just have a bad day and start killing people.

peaceandlovebunny Sat 29-Dec-12 16:51:06

got an article to write?

LaCiccolina Sat 29-Dec-12 16:51:54

Blimey how bored are u to start that off?! Unsure it's an aibu question but good luck nevertheless.....

MammaTJ Sat 29-Dec-12 16:53:11

Good luck with the article!! How much will you get for it?

girliefriend Sat 29-Dec-12 16:54:44

No I don't believe anyone os born evil, how can anyone look ay a newborn baby and think that?

I think awful things happen to people and for whatever reason their capacity to empathise and have compassion do not develop normally. Thompson and Venables I know had been exposed to abuse themselves. I do not believe children from loving, caring, compassionate homes go on to be murderers.

insancerre Sat 29-Dec-12 16:55:10

nature v nurture?
god help you if you think this lot can help you answer that

CogitOCrapNotMoreSprouts Sat 29-Dec-12 16:55:47

Personality traits are fairly fixed. Introverts will rarely become extroverts and vice versa, for example. 'Good', 'bad', 'evil', 'criminal' are social constructs that are not consistent across cultures. So usually learned behaviour.

TapirAroundTheChristmasTree Sat 29-Dec-12 16:55:56

Google is your friend here - we're not writing your article for you.

themomentsinbetween Sat 29-Dec-12 16:56:01

Wow .... erm ..... ok.

It occurred to me when I was thinking of the shootings in Newtown. As I just read about a remembrance service.

I'm not writing an article, neither I am bored.

You can either answer what I what wrote or just ignore it.

No need for snide and nasty comments.

PlainoldWitchesTit Sat 29-Dec-12 16:56:17


Thompson and Venables were children born into and brought up in awful horrible abusive family circumstances.

What a disgusting thread.

SantasHoHoHo Sat 29-Dec-12 16:56:42

Good people don't just have a bad day and start killing people.

Depends really, some good people have so much shit thrown at them in life. Pushes some to suicide so why not murder.

Celticlassie Sat 29-Dec-12 16:57:35

Sadly, some children from loving homes DO go on to become murderers, but they are the exception, rather than the rule.
However, I do not for a second think some people are 'born evil'.

SayMama Sat 29-Dec-12 16:57:40

Interesting first post hmm

themomentsinbetween Sat 29-Dec-12 16:58:50

What a disgusting thread??

What? Why?

Some people are far too easily offended.

I said were they born bad? I never said they were.

Also I'm sure much worse has been said about them.

okaynowitstheseason Sat 29-Dec-12 16:59:49

I don't get all the "article" comments. Some mumsnet posters have a very high opinion of their opinions!

strumpetpumpkin Sat 29-Dec-12 17:00:17

Charles mansons background would make you weep.

SantasHoHoHo Sat 29-Dec-12 17:00:24

Maybe the OP's next post will be 'Do you think good people are born gay or are they turned by the company they keep'

MammaTJ Sat 29-Dec-12 17:00:29

So this is such a burning issue for you, you thought you would join MN especially to ask about it?

CailinDana Sat 29-Dec-12 17:02:54

Ignore the nasty responses, I'm not sure what the point of them is.

It's an interesting question, and I think, no, there's no such thing as "evil". If you think about it logically the concept of "evil" doesn't really mean anything. I think saying some people are evil is just a way of us separating ourselves from the people who commit such awful crimes. It's comforting to think that they are different somehow, and that we could never be in any way like them because they are "evil" and we are not.

I think absolutely everyone is capable of heartlessness and cruelty to a certain extent. What stops us from being "evil" is our desire to fit in with others, our empathy with others and our wish to have a smooth and happy life. I think people like, say Harold Shipman and Ted Bundy lack that desire. They honestly get pleasure or satisfaction from hurting others. Research has shown that this tendency to get pleasure from killing or hurting others has its basis strongly in genetics, but also has a nurture element. So in that sense I suppose you could say some people are "born evil" - I just think "evil" is a bit of a meaningless term.

This talk by Jim Fallon might interest you. He's studied psychopathic killers and comes from a family line of killers himself, and shows psychopathic tendencies but isn't a killer, which shows that your genetic heritage doesn't absolutely determine your life course.

peaceandlovebunny Sat 29-Dec-12 17:02:57

i don't think its genuine. therefore i am not going to engage.

Is this your first post op?

You sound like a journalist.

cinnamonnut Sat 29-Dec-12 17:04:35

OP mixed up there/their in her first post. Do you really believe she's a journalist anyway?

CailinDana Sat 29-Dec-12 17:05:33

Why comment if it's just to be nasty or say something pointless like peace did? If you don't want to contribute to thread, don't bother. And grow up a bit while you're at it.

HecateQueenofWitches Sat 29-Dec-12 17:06:44

think about what it means to be 'good' and 'bad'. Is good always good? Is bad always bad? It is bad to steal. Is it always bad to steal. What if you are feeding a starving child? Are 'good' and 'bad' real or are they dependent on circumstances and on perceptions?

Also, do some research into psychopaths and the nature v nurture debate.

Google John Locke as well.

Also look at the research about biology - hormones part in aggression, etc.

Google the research at John Hopkins university on the effect of a specific gene (absence of it, I think,) on mice. Turned them into sex mad killers.

Also think about the need of people to believe that there is something intrinsically wrong with evil people, in order to believe that they could never become that.

pigletmania Sat 29-Dec-12 17:06:46

Whats wrong with disgusting it. Yes I do think some eople are born evil, Myra hindley and Ian Brady spring to mind

I think peoples life experiences can push them over the edge.

Saying that i know twins adopted by foster mum and with her since babies, they came from an abusive family but were tiny when fostered.

One is in prison for repeated violence, the other is on drugs and had her own kids taken away yet the other adopted/birth children are very stable and have good lifes and careers.

The man who lived next door to me before here was a drug addict and dealer, his mum was a dr, his sister a nurse.

I also think people WAnt to believe someone is evil because it is easier to rationalise in their heads rather than contemplating a "normal" person has carried out that act.

OutragedFromLeeds Sat 29-Dec-12 17:11:53

No, people are not born evil.

I think some people may be born more prone to becoming 'evil' than others, but they need the environmental push to get there.

BigShinyBaubles Sat 29-Dec-12 17:12:11

I think people can be born bad, why else do little kids start harming/abusing animals then move on to other children.

Ezarik Sat 29-Dec-12 17:12:40

OP mixed up there/their in her first post. Do you really believe she's a journalist anyway?

Really because I would have used the same their?

OutragedFromLeeds Sat 29-Dec-12 17:13:12

Oh and it's an interesting question OP.

Ezarik Sat 29-Dec-12 17:13:34

Oops I read it wrong, I saw people in their lives.

OutragedFromLeeds Sat 29-Dec-12 17:13:52

'why else do little kids start harming/abusing animals then move on to other children.'

because they're being abused?

JakeBullet Sat 29-Dec-12 17:14:19

I don't think anyone is born evil no. What I think is that if you have a tendency to violence, have the wrong life circumstances, the wrong biology AND THE WEAPONS TO HAND as was the case in Newtown then you are more likely to be able to kill a lot of people.

Restrictions on certain weapons would have made so much difference in the Adam Lanza case. He might still be alive and more importantly so would the 20 children and four adults who lost their lives.

marjproops Sat 29-Dec-12 17:16:37

Dont know about evil but there are some bitchy comments here!!! OPs asking a perfectly innocent question.

Wasnt there a film with Michael Douglas that he was a good man, family guy, that through one thing or another completely lost it and got sent over the edge and started a killing rampage? Extreme I know, never seen film but think it was something like that.

Think poor upbringing accounts for much (but not every time) and circumstances. definately. circumstances have certainly sent ME over the edge...not to kill obv or make me evil but have made me very ill.

KatyPeril Sat 29-Dec-12 17:18:15

I think it's an interesting thread. Better than the normal bollocks of naice ham.

RowanTheRedNosedMumsnet (MNHQ) Sat 29-Dec-12 17:22:36

Hello folks

I'm afraid we've been visited by a hairy-handed sock-puppeting entity here, so this thread is going to go pffft shortly.

RedToothbrush Sat 29-Dec-12 17:24:32

There have been studies into what mass murderers have in common to try and establish patterns.

One of the interesting ones, is whether someone has had a head injury in the past. There is a high instance of a history of head injuries in mass murderers.

Which suggests a third alternative to the ideas that you can be born evil or somehow raised to be evil; the element of pure chance - such as an accident that maybe does damage to the brain that changes someone in someway beyond their control. (so maybe good people DO have a bad day and start killing people).

If you are familiar with the story of James Cracknell there does seem to be credibility to the idea elsewhere - not just in mass murderers. Whilst cycling in the USA and got hit by a truck. When he was recovering he and his wife were given a frightening piece of information. "75 per cent of people with brain injuries divorce." Why? Because they cause personality changes. Indeed, he apparently tried to strangle her at one point after the accident.

Personally I don't think that murderers are simply born or raised or even created. I think the answer is almost always a combination of factors that add up together and then can be triggered by a crisis or incident of some description. Otherwise, you'd be able 'predict' a murderer with a certain level of accuracy. Which we can't do yet.

AmberLeaf Sat 29-Dec-12 17:24:34

Marj that was 'Falling down' I think?

I don't believe anyone is b0rn evil, I think people that think they are are a bit stupid really and show a huge lack of empathy.

Why do you think children do things like hurting animals/smaller children?

Because they are or have been abused and are acting out the abuse.

Ok I'll bite.

It is my personal opinion (no scientific study or proof) that we are born with certain personality traits for example impatience or happiness.

A person born impatient who is brought up in an abusive house will learn to deal with their impatience with abuse.
A person born impatient who is brought up in a calm household will be more likely to temper their responses.

The same way a happy person who is encourage will grow up still happy but one who is told that it is annoying or worse will end up cowed and reluctant to show happiness.

I don't think it's as simple as good or bad. We all have shades of grey and environment plays a huge part in what comes to the fore.

I hope that makes sense?

Emmielu Sat 29-Dec-12 17:25:33

There was a series on channel 5 called Born to Kill. You should watch it. That'll confirm your question.

HecateQueenofWitches Sat 29-Dec-12 17:25:37

That's a shame, Rowan.

Even though the op is a sad bastard, the discussion itself has the potential to be an interesting one.


cinnamonnut Sat 29-Dec-12 17:26:44

Who's the sock puppet? Ezarik?

cinnamonnut Sat 29-Dec-12 17:27:01

Oh no, I see, never mind, got confused :p

ThePathanKhansWitch Sat 29-Dec-12 17:27:53

Oh how evil of them Rowan.grin

HaveYourselfAMardyLittleXmas Sat 29-Dec-12 17:28:51

I agree it's an interesting discussion. I sometimes wonder about this.

What if you had Damian the "evil" child.

pigletmania Sat 29-Dec-12 17:30:09

No I believe that some people are born with certain narcissistic, psychopath tendencies which make them do evil. To say that people cannot be born evil is very limited and shows a lack of understanding of the complexities of te human psyche

glastocat Sat 29-Dec-12 17:31:08

Ever hear of psychopathy?

HecateQueenofWitches Sat 29-Dec-12 17:31:19

I suppose it comes down to what you believe evil IS.

What is the nature of evil?

RowanTheRedNosedMumsnet (MNHQ) Sat 29-Dec-12 17:31:30

OK, if you're enjoying it we'll leave it up for now - do please report anything that seems odd to you though wink

AmberLeaf Sat 29-Dec-12 17:32:15


When people use the term evil they are rarely using it to describe some one who is narcissisistic.

They use ot to describe people like Jamie Bulgers killers.

pigletmania Sat 29-Dec-12 17:32:25

sorry head fuzzy as I have the flu

pigletmania Sat 29-Dec-12 17:34:04

I am thinking Ian Brady, Jeffery Dohmer, Myra Hindley

AmberLeaf Sat 29-Dec-12 17:34:06

I also have objections to 'evil' being used to describe a whole person who is experiencing poor mental health.

pigletmania Sat 29-Dec-12 17:35:23

All I think have certain personality traits such as narcissism that contribute to them being evil

AmberLeaf Sat 29-Dec-12 17:36:04

Someone upthread I think has said about people using the term so as to distance 'normal' people from the idea of being capable of doing bad things.

It is common for the media to talk about people who have done bad things in suh ways as to make them sound inhumane or monsters.

They of course are just people who due to many varying reasons have done awful things.

Oh good it's staying.

I stand by my long post then.

pigletmania Sat 29-Dec-12 17:38:02

Anders brevik, as well as the high school shooter

Not sure about being born evil. However some people do evil things regardless of their background/upbringing

HecateQueenofWitches Sat 29-Dec-12 17:43:09

Re mental health - not all people with poor mental health are evil (I speak as one who has been an inpatient. And there's a lot of prejudice about mhp. Nobody in my rl knows any of that about me. Apart from my family who lived through it!) but do people think that all those who do evil things do so because of a mental health issue? Do people think that someone can be evil and not have an imbalance of the mind?

Because I think that's where people struggle and why so many people think evil = mhp / mhp = evil. Because they cannot believe, don't want to believe, daren't believe that a 'sane' person could do things which are evil.

If that makes any sense.

TapirAroundTheChristmasTree Sat 29-Dec-12 17:43:58

No-one is born evil, not even Brady or Hindley.

Some people are born without the ability to feel normal emotions, this does not make them evil.

Some people are born into horrible, terrible circumstances. This also does not make them evil.

There are a multitude of factors which affect each person in a completely different way which can result in them doing evil things. This still does not mean that they are evil.

pigletmania Sat 29-Dec-12 17:44:24

But Amber you cannt disguise the cold hard facts. The manner in which they killed those people. How they lacked any emotion or connection to their victims. Ian Brady is one of them. I am sure he knows full well where tat boy is burried, but refuses to tell anyone. the mum died not knowing where on Saddleworth Moore her son is buried. What sort of individual could keep something like that from a mother. Ahh affectionless psychopath comes to mind

BeyondStuffedWithXmassyGoodies Sat 29-Dec-12 17:45:22

I've nearly started this thread a few times after seeing someone referred to as evil...

The idea that anyone is "just" evil just sounds way too religious to me - a way of explaining something that noone has any idea about, but that actually we now have a few more ideas about, if not an actual answer (iyswim!?)
I don't know whether it is nature or nurture, but I believe that something must have happened to make them "bad"

I agree with the posts above that calling them "evil" is an attempt to distance them from "you and I"

AmberLeaf Sat 29-Dec-12 17:46:32

Because I think that's where people struggle and why so many people think evil = mhp / mhp = evil. Because they cannot believe, don't want to believe, daren't believe that a 'sane' person could do things which are evil

Yes that makes a lot of sense.

maddening Sat 29-Dec-12 17:48:02

There is the yy chromosome thing - some men apparently have yy instead of xy - in the high security prison population eg murderers, rapists, pedophiles etc. this occurs more than in the general population. Another group where there is a higher proportion is high ranking police. Can't remember where I read it though.

AmberLeaf Sat 29-Dec-12 17:48:41


As an athiest I see the use of the word evil as too tied up in religion and simplified for my liking.

AfterEightMintyy Sat 29-Dec-12 17:48:43

No, I absolutely do not believe anyone is born evil.

HecateQueenofWitches Sat 29-Dec-12 17:49:35
Viviennemary Sat 29-Dec-12 17:49:42

I think some people are born with a predisposition towards 'evil'. That is if they had been born or experienced a different set of circumstances they may not have turned out the way they did. And some people wouldn't do evil things no matter what they had experienced. So I don't think everything can be entirely blamed on upbringing or entirely blamed on inbuilt characteristics.

frogspoon Sat 29-Dec-12 17:51:22

I recently attended a talk, which included neuroscientific research which had been carried out in prisons. The research compared brain scans of psychopaths: people with severe antisocial personality disorder who were on the highest security wing for crimes such as murder, with non-psychopaths, who were convicted of less serious crimes e.g. theft.

It was found that the amygdala, which controls your emotions, was much smaller in psychopaths than in non-psychopaths. So perhaps people can be born evil, a result of an abnormality in the structure of the brain.

Alisvolatpropiis Sat 29-Dec-12 17:54:44

I don't know. It can't always be nurture because the more infamous evil people we know about,they had siblings who didn't grow up to be murderers.

The boys who killed Jamie Bulger may well have had awful upbringings but thousands of people sadly do as well. People raised in abusive families don't automatically grow up into child murderers.

People from perfectly average families also do evil things. The Bamber murders would be a case in point.

I think maybe some people are born evil.

OutragedFromLeeds Sat 29-Dec-12 17:55:21

'Not sure about being born evil. However some people do evil things regardless of their background/upbringing'

How on earth can you tell that any behaviour is 'regardless' of background/upbringing?

I absolutely believe that no baby is born evil. Imagine it- a tiny newborn cannot be 'evil'. What a ridiculous notion.

Most people who commit evil acts are a product of their environment, have serious MH issues, or are easily influenced by others who are similarly damaged.

OutragedFromLeeds Sat 29-Dec-12 17:56:35

'they had siblings who didn't grow up to be murderers'

do you think all sibling have exactly the same experience growing up?

Alisvolatpropiis Sat 29-Dec-12 18:02:22

No I don't but it is a fact that they do have siblings who don't grow up to be murderers across the board.

It was an observation.

OutragedFromLeeds Sat 29-Dec-12 18:06:02

but what does that tell us? Siblings are treated differently and they grow up to be different? It has no bearing on whether or not someone is born evil or not.

outraged you don't have to be abused or have a bad childhood to do evil things. Abusive people can come from totally normal backgrounds with no history of abuse or trauma themselves.

Not everything can be explained by having a bad childhood

LaurieBlueBell Sat 29-Dec-12 18:10:06

IMO no.
I'm a foster carer, on a recent training course we were given a exercise to do. We had to read a script about a child and decide at which points people could have intervened to help the child involved.

The child's story was one of the most distressing examples of abuse I had ever read. There were dozens of incidents where SS, teachers. police, other parents should have done something to help him.

Only when we had finished were we told the child in question was Jon Venables. Nothing can ever excuse what he did but I do feel truly sorry for the little boy he was.

Alisvolatpropiis Sat 29-Dec-12 18:11:40

Outraged that's your opinion. You are entitled to it,as I am entitled to have mine.

Cortana Sat 29-Dec-12 18:11:53

Hec would send that link to me in a pm? On phone picking up DP and don't wan thread going pffft before I get to laptop.

OutragedFromLeeds Sat 29-Dec-12 18:15:24

'outraged you don't have to be abused or have a bad childhood to do evil things'

No of course not, but do you think we ever really do anything completely unrelated to our background/childhood. Surely everything we do is influenced by who we are?!

OutragedFromLeeds Sat 29-Dec-12 18:17:23

'Outraged that's your opinion. You are entitled to it,as I am entitled to have mine'

erm....thanks. Still not sure what it's contributing to the discussion though? I mean, it my opinion that black pudding is the food of the devil, but it would be a bit random for me to post it as part of a discussion about serial killers!

Alisvolatpropiis Sat 29-Dec-12 18:20:13

It isn't a justification though. You cannot justify being a rapist/murderer/paedophile by saying "I had a bad childhood".

Lots of people have horrorendous upbringings and do not abuse,rape,murder.

At what point does one have to take responsibility for ones actions as an adult without "bad childhood" being an excuse. Because the average,mundane actions and choices people make are not justified in such a way.

Lots of people who had bad childhoods strive to be the complete opposite with their own children...because of it. But bad childhood is only ever used as justification in the context where the person has done something abhorrent.

Alisvolatpropiis Sat 29-Dec-12 18:21:20


I was trying to politely say: you disagree with me. I disagree with you. Drop it and stop quoting my posts. Thanks.

I don't think who we are is totally influenced by how we were bought up and yes I do think we do things that are completely unrelated to our childhood.

Many people find it in themselves to do well regardless of their childhood. It's not unreasonable to think some people will turn out bad however they were bought up

amillionyears Sat 29-Dec-12 18:22:42

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

pigletmania Sat 29-Dec-12 18:23:21

More crack your opinion has severe limitations and takes no account of biology. Like someone has said how come the siblings don't murder, tey were brought up in the same circumstances!

WhoPutTheDickOnTheSnowman Sat 29-Dec-12 18:24:48

Frogspoon said what I was going to - there is interesting research about that has looked into the physical and genetic differences of populations that has fielded some interesting resutls.

It is shown that mothers with amygdala damage or stunted development show a decreased maternal instinct and often neglect or abuse their children - did it start here or were they the unlucky one off mutation that emerged from the ether. It impairs Pavlovian fear conditioning, appetitive conditioning and you are more likely to have a small or non-existant social network due to a reduced emotional intelligence and ability to process facial expressions or feelings of others.

The shooter in the bell tower had a brain tumour.

I don't think it is purely nature or nuture but I think certain people are born (certainly more people than go on to be murderers or even serial killers) with a destructive gentic package that coupled with the right environmental ingredients causes the problem - how much of each ingredient is present, needed or mixed is dependant on the person and environmental set up. It's not black and white but it does start in infancy as attachment disorders of neglected or abused infants show quite clearly.

OutragedFromLeeds Sat 29-Dec-12 18:27:19

'I was trying to politely say: you disagree with me. I disagree with you. Drop it and stop quoting my posts. Thanks'

confused you disagree with me that siblings can have different experiences growing up?

<I quote your posts to avoid misrepresenting what you've said>

babyhammock Sat 29-Dec-12 18:28:55

I thought it was recognised that around 4% of the population are 'psychopathic' to varying degrees in that they have zero empathy.

Empathy is something so fundamental to being human that it is very hard to imagine someone not having it and so it seems easier to blame it on an abusive childhood or that we are all capable of doing horrific things under certain circumstances.

I personally don't believe that all people are capable of doing 'evil' things although I accept that good people do commit great wrongs. However what makes those people human is they feel real remorse for it.

Psychopaths don't...they simply don't care. So I guess what makes/defnes someone as 'evil' is that they enjoy the hurt they cause and feel no remorse.

I think it is a combination of nature and nurture tbh that causes this. Someone with a psychopathic brain chemistry brought up in a non abusive household is likely (not always) to probably grow up to be a bit of a narcissist but generally ok, whereas the same child brought up in an abusive house could turn out to be a lot more extreme

ByTheSea Sat 29-Dec-12 18:30:11

I think there is likely a physical or neurological predisposition and that this can be triggered one way or another or not at all by life circumstances and events, or trauma, particularly in early infancy and childhood. I also think brain injury can affect the parts of the brain responsible for empathy and inhibition of violent impulses.

Alisvolatpropiis Sat 29-Dec-12 18:30:11

We disagree on the fact that their siblings grow up to be normal after having the same upbringing is a prudent observation.

HecateQueenofWitches Sat 29-Dec-12 18:30:11

amillion - I think they've already been banned. They have disappeared. It's just that mnhq are not deleting the thread because of the interest expressed in the issue.

AmberLeaf Sat 29-Dec-12 18:30:28

Siblings can be treated very very differently within the same family piglet.


Ive heard about that training tool before. far too easy to label people evil, in doing so it removes the responsibility from those who could have done something. to say they were evil means that nothing anyone couldhave done would have made a difference.

Moominsarehippos Sat 29-Dec-12 18:30:32

Nature, nurture, physical and circumstance - mix of these. Last time I did any reading on the subject, that was the majority concensus (long time since I did my degree though).

I know people who have been born into hideous families and 'turned our normal' and people with stable homes, loving families but 'turnes out a wrong 'un' after 'falling in with the wrong crowd'.

I dont think 'monsters' come from nowhere. There is usually a back story to them.

nocake Sat 29-Dec-12 18:31:15

Read The Psychopath Test. You'll then understand that some people are born psychopaths, without the normal human emotions and without the ability to understand the concepts of right and wrong. Some of these people will do things that others describe as evil... does that make the people evil? I'm not sure it does.

babyhammock Sat 29-Dec-12 18:32:03

Sorry meant to say empathy andconscience

Alisvolatpropiis Sat 29-Dec-12 18:32:39


In all honesty I have no idea if it's nature or nurture. None of us do.

I just felt like you were picking on me whilst other posters were saying the same thing <<sensitive soul>> grin

GreatCongas Sat 29-Dec-12 18:32:49

No you're not being unreasonable to think that
We're all entitled to our opinions
Whether you're right or not is another matter

Isabeller Sat 29-Dec-12 18:33:54

As this thread has redeemed itself from it's hairy origins (metaphor for whole debate even grin) I'm going to risk throwing in my random thoughts.

I have a little bit of experience looking after people with dementia and a little bit of experience of people with brain injury, tumour and stuff. It is surprising how lovely, kind, gentle people can become aggressive or even violent when their brains are affected.

I think there is some evidence that abuse of all sorts has a measurable effect on children's brain's but also that even damaged brains can recover amazingly well and even 'reroute' their internal wiring to recover functions after injury.

I don't want to believe that anyone is born evil or is not 'redeemable' but I also have to recognise that some people do behave in evil ways and it isn't necessarily possible to predict it any more accurately than predicting weather.

catsmother Sat 29-Dec-12 18:34:42

I remember the question of "born evil" was raised once amongst a group of my friends at a meal out. Like here, there was a mix of opinion - nature v nurture and so on. Someone said something very thought provoking which those who believe that some people are born evil and it was this: imagine if you could travel back in time, knowing what you know now, for example in regard to Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin or any other mass murderer you could think of (or any murderer really, child abuser, rapist etc) and be placed in a position where that individual had just been born. Now consider if you could commit murder yourself and kill that newborn baby - in order to save (depending) millions of deaths. Be honest - even for the greater good - how many of us could/would do that ? If not, why not (assuming there'd be no personal repercussions for us) .... because, I guess, a newborn baby is seen as being completely innocent - and if we think that, then we can't believe in being born evil - if all that makes sense ??

catsmother Sat 29-Dec-12 18:36:47

should read

Someone said something very thought provoking which those who believe that some people are born evil might like to think about

amillionyears Sat 29-Dec-12 18:37:22

Hecate, oh.
Will they still be able to read what is written?

Feel like they may be trying to justify themselves after, or about to do something horrible?

HecateQueenofWitches Sat 29-Dec-12 18:41:10

Yes. I am sure they would be able to, they always can, even after mn bans you you can still read not logged in.

Which is I suppose a good reason to delete their threads. It's just this is an interesting and intelligent debate and it seems a shame to lose it.

Isabeller Sat 29-Dec-12 18:42:01

catsmother have you read Making History by Stephen Fry absolutely brilliant 'What if you could prevent Hitler?' novel.

OutragedFromLeeds Sat 29-Dec-12 18:45:14

I really don't think a psychopathic murderer will post a thread on mn to see if their behaviour can be excused amillion

Alisvolatpropiis Sat 29-Dec-12 18:46:05

catsmother I think I could do it. But wouldn't. I think the whole concept of tampering with history is a dicey one. Kill baby Adolf Hitler - what would the result be,what would fill the void? Would a worse mass murderer exist instead? What would the consequences of acting for the greater good actually be?

It's like the film Buttefly Effect but with time travel.

scottishmummy Sat 29-Dec-12 18:49:56

no,what an illiberal view point.circumstance,opportunity,stress all drive behaviours
I don't believe born evil

amillionyears Sat 29-Dec-12 18:50:59

They dont have to be a murderer though.
There are lots of horrible behaviour inbetween.

RedToothbrush Sat 29-Dec-12 18:51:19

You'll then understand that some people are born psychopaths, without the normal human emotions and without the ability to understand the concepts of right and wrong. Some of these people will do things that others describe as evil... does that make the people evil? I'm not sure it does.

Isn't the point that the definition of an evil person really starts with intent and whether they have the understanding of empathy and/or a concept of right and wrong? If you have understanding and go against that then you could be described as evil. But if you lack that ability to begin with, your comprehension is different therefore you might carry out evil actions, but your lack of capacity to understand means you can't necessarily be evil.

So being born evil, in effect means born with the deliberate intent to inflict as much harm on people as possible without regard.

OutragedFromLeeds Sat 29-Dec-12 18:52:25

Ali I'm not picking on anyone. You made an interesting point and I responded. FWIW I agree that if two people had exactly the same upbringing and one turns out to be a serial killer and one doesn't it would be a prudent observation.

The bit I disagree with is that siblings ever have the same upbringing. Even where children are growing up in the same family envorinment, their role in the family will be different and their experiences outside the home will be different. For example, two siblings growing up in an abusive home, one had a supportive, kind class teacher and some good friends, one has a bullying nasty teacher and no friends. Are we suprised when they turn into different teenagers?

Alisvolatpropiis Sat 29-Dec-12 18:55:24

Outraged you do have a point there,I can see where you are coming from completely. And agree.

MaryChristmaZEverybody Sat 29-Dec-12 19:02:03

Mad, sad, bad, who knows?

But helping unhappy struggling children and their families just might stop some of the nastiness happening sad

Shagmundfreud Sat 29-Dec-12 19:02:04

What I find very scary is that ordinary people just like me can be drawn into committing atrocities in socially chaotic situations like civil wars.

I think most people have the capacity to behave with extreme cruelty. sad

aladdinsane Sat 29-Dec-12 19:06:31

I think some in our society - DM types - like to believe this theory as it means society is not responsible
We are all products of our environment but, sadly, children can be harmed developmentally at a very young age
Environment includes the time in the womb
My daughter was only 15 months old when we adopted her but she is a very troubled child
The brain does most of its developing in the first 2 years and it is the first experience which lays down the neuronal pathway which will be the blueprint for everything that follows

aladdinsane Sat 29-Dec-12 19:08:54

And I agree with other posters - good people can do bad things
If they arm teachers in the good old US one of them will flip one day when holding a gun

Impossible. People are not born bad.
They might inherit weak or strong versions of their parents' latent/suppressedncharacteristics which are drawn out by their bad circumstances in childhood or later life. So you wouldn't be able to predict it and you'd think oh they have such nice parents....just a bad seed.

RedToothbrush Sat 29-Dec-12 19:41:11

Shag has a very good point about civil war. The difference between 'right and wrong', is a social construct that requires stability and consensus to enforce.

When those constructs are removed people behave in different ways according to what is deemed acceptable under different conditions. So for example, some one who is the enemy can be dehumanised by conditioning and therefore torture could be seen as acceptable or even deserved.

The person committing the crime hasn't changed at all, but the social constructs and understanding of what is expected of them have.

Which may explain things about the actions of people who live in 'civilised society' too.

Mandy2003 Sat 29-Dec-12 19:47:48

I didn't have time to read the whole thread yet but something that shocked me in the news - Lanza, the latest shooting massacre kid in the States - they are going to examine his DNA to see if he had some kind of serial killer gene shock

HecateQueenofWitches Sat 29-Dec-12 19:52:40

That's true, Shagmund.

People in groups, through history, have done vile, vile things.

I wonder what it is about people that makes them do things as part of a group that they would not do alone.

Does this mean that people would do these things, but lack the 'courage' to do them alone?

Or that they do these things if they feel there are no consequences for them?

Those are actually quite chilling thoughts.

sunshine401 Sat 29-Dec-12 19:52:53

The evil must be inside from very early on. People can be depressed , abused in every shape and form but yet would never actually go on to hurt anyone out of an act of revenge. Then someone who has evil inside them may have it triggered by a serious of life problems and explodes onto others. Then there are purely evil people who for some reason plot to do horrible things with what seems to be no motive behind it. They must just be evil inside and out.

Shagmundfreud Sat 29-Dec-12 19:56:25

Well - the boy had aspergers, and a mother who had armed herself to the teeth in anticipation of complete social breakdown and anarchy.

As the parent of a ds with aspergers, the story sent a cold shiver down my spine.

oldpeculiar Sat 29-Dec-12 19:56:48

MNHQ-please don't delete-it's a good debate to get our teeth into!

digerd Sat 29-Dec-12 19:57:07

Have they really discovered a serial killer gene? Doubt it.

OutragedFromLeeds Sat 29-Dec-12 19:57:51

I think they're looking for it digerd, rather than they've already found it.

MaryChristmaZEverybody Sat 29-Dec-12 20:02:58

Shag, we don't know whether the mum had armed herself to the teeth for fear of armageddon. There is another possibility - that the son's obsession was guns, and she thought that by teaching him to use them safely and taking him to a firing range she might have stopped him doing anything worse.

I'm loathe to blame her, without knowing a lot more, because it seems to me that the system let her down, as well as her son sad.

sunshine, did you really say "evil within"? Isn't that all a bit, er, biblical confused.

digerd Sat 29-Dec-12 20:11:30

There are 3 offspring in my family from same parents. All different.
My DB born contrary, mum said, nobody could tell him what to do as he would not do it. If he was told not to do it he would. 71 years later he is just the same. He was, however never cruel, angry or violent and very intelligent.
My sister, was born determined to get her own way, mum told me, even as a baby. She is still the same today, but achieves her aim in different ways.
Me, I was born very timid and shy, with no self confidence. That has improved with age, but my nature is very different from my 2 siblings.

AmberLeaf Sat 29-Dec-12 20:18:41

There is no such thing as 'evil within'

Yes it is all very biblical!

People do bad things sometimes, it is not eeeVillle that makes them do it, its just human behavior!

babyhammock Sat 29-Dec-12 20:26:57

'They' experts who've studied it think that psychopathy (without conscience or empathy) is at least partly inherited/genetic.
There's a good book on the subject 'the sociopath next door' by Martha Stout which is a really interesting read.

4% are supposed to be like this and I guess if you have no conscience and no empathy you'd be very capable of doing some pretty horrendous things but would also be capable of learning social constraints.

babyhammock Sat 29-Dec-12 20:31:09

People do bad things sometimes, it is not eeeVillle that makes them do it, its just human behavior!

Tbh I think that most people would not behave in a way that is considered 'evil' i.e deliberately causing considerable hurt and not giving a toss about it. I like to think that the majority of humans are constrained by empathy and conscience.

There was a documentary called child of rage, I think its probably on YouTube but its not nice viewing. We watched it in psychology.

It is about two children adopted at 7 months and 19 months, so very young indeed when with parents.

The girl is very violent towards her brother , sticks him with pins, attacks his private parts, attacks him with a knife, she kills baby birds and hurts animals, she's been neglected and has no attachment to others. She's almost certainly been sexually abused sad

In the records sHe openly says about wanting to kill, she's around four years old.

She goes to A special unit and they do turn her round but these were very young on adoption, I you front think they were born evil but it does show very very early neglect can have a massive effect.

pigletmania Sat 29-Dec-12 20:41:11

Amber leaf Mabey not evil but a collection of psychological traits that makes person more likely to do horrendous things

HollyBerryBush Sat 29-Dec-12 20:49:23

Lanza, the Sandy Hook assasin, is hte first of his kind to have his DNA removed for scientific purposes to establish the evil gene.

I won't link as there are far too many news sources, but just put in lanza-study-evil-gene into google and it will bring up the news reports

Scientists have been asked to study the DNA of Newtown school killer Adam Lanza to see if has an 'evil' gene

MaryChristmaZEverybody Sat 29-Dec-12 21:06:07

The thing is, if you don't have empathy, how can you deliberately cause hurt?

I have tried to explain it as the difference between selfishness and self-centred-ness. So if you are selfish, you do things for yourself regardless of who you hurt. If you are self-centred you don't realise that you are hurting people.

So some people who lack empathy may genuinely not think through the consequences of the appalling things they do. Does that make them evil (as in doing things to hurt people) or self-centred (as in doing awful things that hurt people, but doing them for self-satisfaction rather than to hurt others)?

The kids who killed Jamie Bulger are good examples of this. Did they kill him deliberately, knowing he would be hurt, and dead, and his parents and society would be horrified by what they had done? If they had done it knowing the result, then yes I suppose you could say they were innately evil.

But I don't believe they did. I believe they were abused young kids, with very little empathy and understanding. I believe they acted on impulse and out of curiosity, with very little perception of the end result of their actions. They wanted (possibly out of curiosity) to see what would happen, they happened to find a child, they were sort of experimenting.

What they did was appalling by normal standards. And obviously horrifying to the majority. But did they really know what the end result would be?

To be evil, a person would have to deliberately cause harm. They would have to know the harm, to realise what the end result would be, to be able to empathise with the person they were hurting, and with their victim's relatives.

I suspect many psychopaths don't have the ability to do this; therefore by definition they are not evil.

And I think

AmberLeaf Sat 29-Dec-12 21:12:25

Good post MaryZ

babyhammock Sat 29-Dec-12 21:15:39

The definition of psychopath is not simply that they have no empathy, its more that they have no conscience. The thing is a true psychopath is often very manipulative in that they know how to play the game and cover their tracks, and they're not all serial killers by any stretch of the imagination.

They hurt and they know they are hurting, they simply don't care

MaryChristmaZEverybody Sat 29-Dec-12 21:19:17

Whoops, got interrupted mid-post.

I was going to finish by saying that I think that finding an "evil" gene is the slippery slope to locking people up in case the do something bad. Which is not the mark of a civilised society.

Yes, it is terrible that some people do bad things. And if it was my child who was murdered by a psychopath, I would want all potential psychopaths locked up in case.

But we can't lock people up in case they do bad things. That was what we used to do in the bad old days of secure mental asylums. Where we locked up hundreds of people who were never going to hurt anyone, in order to protect society from the few who might have hurt people.

My great-great-grandmother was locked in an asylum for 40 years and died there. She had committed no crime.

Do we really want to go back to that?

OutragedFromLeeds Sat 29-Dec-12 21:19:21

I think it depends a lot on what your definition of 'evil' is. I don't necessarily think that not understanding means you can't be 'evil'. In some ways, I think it seems more 'evil' to do something with absolutely no regard for what the outcome would be than to do something with a motive.

OutragedFromLeeds Sat 29-Dec-12 21:27:17

No, we don't want to lock people up 'in case' they commit a crime. We do want to prevent serial killers killing. I'm not sure I buy the 'slippery slope' argument, we have to trust society not to misuse science, rather than just preventing science from making breakthroughs.

I agree its a slippery slope, my aunt spent a massive part of her life locked in an institute, she had commited no crime other than to have learning difficulties no worse than my own dd. I don't want to go back to that.

MaryChristmaZEverybody Sat 29-Dec-12 21:35:18

That's all very well, but if they find an "evil" gene, what are they going to do with people who have it?

And do you really think that crimes will only be committed by people with that gene? You might stop one or two serial killers, but the vast majority of crime is committed by people who aren't doing it because they are "evil" - they are doing it because they lose their temper, or they want something they don't have, or they make a mistake, or they are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Science doesn't stop that.

I think finding an evil gene would be a massive mistake for society.

What would we do about it? Test all babies at birth? Constantly monitor those that supposedly have it? Put curfews on them and lock them up?

I doubt the entire of the prison population has this gene.

OutragedFromLeeds Sat 29-Dec-12 21:41:36

I don't think that the discovery of a common gene/genetic mutation in a number of serial killers will lead scientists to believe that everyone with that gene will become a killer or that no crime will be committed by anyone else. The Daily Mail will probably reach that conclusion, but no-one else.

babyhammock Sat 29-Dec-12 21:51:20

I read that studies they've done in the US show that 20% of inmates in prison are psychopathic or score as such on the Hare's checklist.

RandallPinkFloyd Sat 29-Dec-12 21:52:10

Was getting really into this thread and pondering how to compose my post.

Then flipping MaryZ rocks up and says everything I want to say but much more eloquently and with far more insight.

<<gets coat>>

FierySmaug Sat 29-Dec-12 21:55:12

I can't understand why some people are being so rude to the op. disgusting thread? Hardly hmm
I think people can be born evil. I get annoyed when people defend murderers because they may have had a bad upbringing. Well boo hoo. Having a crappy or even abusive upbringing doesn't excuse awful crimes like the one those evil little bastards Thompson and Venables committed. I couldn't give two hoots what their childhoods were like. They knew what they were doing and frankly, I think they should be strung up locked up forever.

The Daily Mail will probably reach that conclusion, but no-one else. "

Sad but TRUE

MaryChristmaZEverybody Sat 29-Dec-12 21:58:21

Exactly Whistling.

Outraged, it will. Imagine a scenario where everyone has gene testing before they can get a job. Who would give the job of a teacher or a nurse to someone with such a gene?

I think even investigating it is a horrific violation of human rights.

Thanks Randal smile

fiery mumsnet hq said lower down the thread that the thread was a sock puppet thread, basically someone using two sign ins to cause argument.

The thread was only allowed to remain because people asked for it to because the subject is interesting.

Psycopathy is a personality disorder and very rare, I trained as a mh nurse but can't remember what they said the % was but it was very low. We were told unless we worked in forensic mh we would probably never meet anyone with it.

However a high % of prisoners Show traits of anti social personality disorder

skratta Sat 29-Dec-12 22:02:40

I'm not sure, but I think psychopaths can't really be evil. Surely a psychopath is someone who commits atrocities like murder etc; without empathy- although possibly with intent, because they were born without the ability to have empathy, then they can never be called 'evil' (which I define as committing things like torture, murder, etc; with intent and as sane).

If, as many people, define it like me, that evil is with intent and also the ability to go against human emotion and empathy, then being 'born evil' is an oxymoron. If you were born without empathy for human beings, and are psychopathic, then, although doing the crimes with intent, you cannot truly understand the extent of your actions (so a sane 'evil' person would be able to understand, emphasise and know what pain the person they're doing something to is feeling, but go against it- someone with no empathy might understand it is happening but not be able to truly emphasise with the person) and cannot be considered 'evil'.

I feel all a bit mixed up about this (illness, just got back from a 14hr flight, children...). It's so hard to understand how anybody can ever do this. It's hard for me to understand how someone with agoraphobia feels for instance, I know what it is, and I can try and grasp at the feeling of having it, but I will never understand it. Evilness, or, let's just say for a moment here, lack of empathy, is hard to understand.

I can't and probably won't ever be able to imagine what a psychopath feels, how they see the world. I see the world in my way, and I see the world, like many people, with empathy.

Empathy seems inescapable- sometimes you don't realise it, but you always have it. I watch the news about Syria, and see children escaping from the fighting, and imagine what it must be like- try to imagine- and I don't even make myself emphasise or think about it, I feel sad for them, feel angry how it could happen and many other things.

I donate to charities for the homeless because when I hear about it, my mind jumps to how I think I would feel if I lost my house, was dependent on the council, was in a cramped room maybe, dealing with forms and laws and everything, trying to pay for necessities and realising I couldn't afford things which I take for granted now- washing machines, new clothes, nice food like desserts, presents for the children. Even helping someone with a pram up the steps in the train station requires empathy- a woman came up to me yesterday when I was taking the train to the airport, and said 'Sorry, I don't have children, so you might be fine, but do you need any help with that pram?' No children (although probably has experience of smalller siblings, maybe even nephews or nieces, or other children, although not necessarily) and she looked at me struggling with the pram (DH wasn't there unfortunately, and DC too young to help me) and thought 'she looks like she needs help' which is impossible to think unless you would look at me and feel sad or wonder what it would be like struggling with all of that. Although a tiny problem, empathy is still required.

So I find it hard to understand a person without empathy. I find it hard to think a sane person can be 'evil' too. I'm still not sure a sane person could ever murder anyone. Not psychopathy, nothing ever like that, but I would find it hard to murder someone. However, I've had a very nice life- I had a bad relationship with my mother as a child, and my father died- but I was never abused, hurt or anything. I wouldn't describe it as 'nice', but I was never pushed to anything close to murder. If I was abused by my mother, as quite a headstrong, quite impatient (even now unfortunately, although as an adult I've obviously controlled this!) and easily pushed person, would I have? I honestly think not- but by 'thinking' this, I'm trying to equate another, very alien, experience, with my own, which is impossible.

I think every human will see a scenario and put their own experience, life and self into that scenario. I have never experienced severe abuse (or any abuse, and I count myself incredibly lucky for that) so therefore cannot imagine the life, the feelings, the hurt, pain and emotional damage that someone who suffered it has or had- all I can do is try and picture it, but because I can't ever see it fully, I naturally will have my own life and past slip in- subconciously- which prevents me from understanding. Because I have never felt the need to murder, I can never understand a murderer. You could say only a person we consider 'evil' should be allowed to judge if someone is evil- only they have the full understanding which, fortunately I would say, no one else can really have, not a psychopath, sane non-'evil' person or other).

I think a truly evil person isn't sane, but classing it as a mental health problem is wrong too. It's something very wrong and inbetween and almost scary, but I think no one will be able to understand it unless they develop a technology which accurately sees what someone else is seeing and thinking and feeling.

skratta Sat 29-Dec-12 22:03:09

Um, a bit too long a post?

cuttherope Sat 29-Dec-12 22:11:09


Feel like they may be trying to justify themselves after, or about to do something horrible?

Was that comment for real? hmm

I've seen strange comments on here before but just for you - biscuit

OutragedFromLeeds Sat 29-Dec-12 22:11:58

'Outraged, it will. Imagine a scenario where everyone has gene testing before they can get a job'

That would be terrible. I can't see it happening. We have lots of scientific and medical knowledge that we don't abuse to that degree. Why would this be different?

Tbh I really, really doubt there is an 'evil gene' so the whole thing is moot really.

I don't agree that we shouldn't study and investigate something for fears of what terrible abuses could come of it.

MaryChristmaZEverybody Sat 29-Dec-12 22:12:41

And Fiery has just proved my point hmm.

But just because you lack empathy doesn't mean you don't know right from wrong. People can have all the personality traits of a psychopath but not be violent or display any criminal behaviour.

amillionyears Sat 29-Dec-12 22:14:00

Never had a biscuit before.

MNHQ said it was a troll.

Are you saying cuttherope that you know you are 100% right?

babyhammock Sat 29-Dec-12 22:15:04

so where do abusers fit in to all this? Those that control and abuse their children or partners to whatever degree. Do they understand what they are doing and the hurt they are causing? I think they do and don't care enough to stop as it suits their purpose. What does that make them?

If a psychopath is defined by character traits then it isn't a gene

FunnysInLaJardin Sat 29-Dec-12 22:15:34

No I don't, to the OP. I think it is deffo a case of nurture over nature where evilness is concerned

amillionyears Sat 29-Dec-12 22:18:16

Looks like you are a brand new poster this evening cuttherope hmm

cuttherope Sat 29-Dec-12 22:20:45

No not brand new. Just more of a lurker.

Thought your comment was strange, so I commented on it.

As did another user. Don't see you pulling them up on it.

If you really think a murdering psychopath is patrolling mumsnet in a bid to defend their behaviour then I am slightly lost for words.

babyhammock Sat 29-Dec-12 22:21:40

Moomin but psychopaths have been shown to have a different brain set up on mri scans which causes them to display different personality traits to the rest of us. Is that difference in brain make up caused by a gene or early attachment disorders or abuse?

OutragedFromLeeds Sat 29-Dec-12 22:26:45

I think there is evidence to suggest genes can influence personality traits moomin

baby so have people with other personality disorders, which in the majority of cases is thought to be because of abuse or trauma in childhood which for some reason has stoopped traits of their personalitys from developing in the usual way.

amillionyears Sat 29-Dec-12 22:29:06

Didnt see the other poster.
Which one?

GreatCongas Sat 29-Dec-12 22:30:26

Sorry about my random post in the middle
I manage to miss some pages

As the mother of a 12yo I find it very disturbing to read posts which suggest 10yo children should be hung for crimes they have committed.

No defence or excuse for the horrific deed they perpetrated, but comments like this are inexcusable.

MaryChristmaZEverybody Sat 29-Dec-12 22:35:25

Can I give you an example of empathy?

I used to get really, really cross with ds1, because he would walk into the sitting room and change the tv station, reducing dd and ds2 to tears. I used to think he was deliberately upsetting them, and selfishly turning the tv to something he wanted to watch.

It was only when I had a long conversation when he was 16 (yes 16 - ten years after he started the behaviour) that I realised that he was changing the tv station because the programme that was on was boring. He genuinely thought he was being helpful - he was turning the tv to something interesting.

It never occurred to him that dd was enjoying the original programme.

He genuinely thought she would be pleased that he changed it.

Was he being nasty?

He is autistic btw.

OutragedFromLeeds Sat 29-Dec-12 22:40:21

What was his reaction to DD and DS2 crying?

MaryChristmaZEverybody Sat 29-Dec-12 22:43:12

He genuinely didn't understand why they were upset.

He genuinely thought they would be glad he had found something more interesting to watch.

Once I realised how he thought (years and years later), I could explain things to him. And life got much easier. He still can't understand that dd might want to watch x-factor when deep sea fishing is on, but now that I have told him he accepts that she has weird likes grin.

It's funny - it's something that is so obvious now I know. Whereas I used to think he was being nasty.

I wish I could go back, knowing what I know, and bring him up again.

BaresarkBunny Sat 29-Dec-12 22:47:35

LaurieBlueBell - I always thought that it was Robert Thompson who had the more traumatic childhood out of the two boys?

Lilka Sat 29-Dec-12 22:50:52

No I don't think people are 'born evil'. I have a slight trouble with the word evil, it just springs up hellfire images from religion

Some people completely fail to develop empathy and compassion as they develop. Empathy is not present at birth. It is developed in the earlier years. And major problems in the early years can sometimes result in empathy not developing normally or even being absent alltogether. Although some people who commit awful crimes come from very loving homes as well. But poeple with bad early childhoods are very disproportionately represented among criminals

OutragedFromLeeds Sat 29-Dec-12 22:51:55

then I think, no he was not being nasty, but it's an issue of understanding I think. He didn't understand why they were upset, but when he did, he stopped doing it.

I believe that the children that murdered James Bulger knew and understood that he was crying because they were beating him. They just didn't care.

I think they had very similar upbringings and history's of violent behaviour

Valdeeves Sat 29-Dec-12 22:57:11

I think your thread should have been called "Why are some people just so goddamn snotty on mumsnet?"
I don't have the answer for you but at least you posted something that want about a MIL.

'I believe that the children that murdered James Bulger knew and understood that he was crying because they were beating him. They just didn't care.'

I agree. They were devoid of empathy, probably due to their home environment and exposure to graphic violence and possibly pornography.

I still think, that as 10yo children, they deserved a chance of rehabilitation. I am glad I live in a society where this is the case.

MaryChristmaZEverybody Sat 29-Dec-12 23:17:38

I think that's where we differ in our opinions Outraged.

I think they were dispassionately curious about what would happen, in the same way as untaught small boys might tear the wings off flies and laugh as they watch them staggering around in circles.

If someone had taken the time to explain to those boys about hurt, they might well not have done it. Instead they were brought up to watch violent films and play violent games, and their imaginations made poor Jamie just another figure in those games.

I don't believe either of them had the emotional capacity to think "we are going to torture this child to death, his parents will cry at his funeral". I really don't.

Of course, I don't really know. I wasn't there. I can only guess from what I have read.

Either way, my sympathies lie 100% with Jamie and his parents. But (and this is a big but) those boys are not entirely to blame. Their upbringing, their backgrounds, their lack of support and understanding must also be blamed. And for that I blame society, which failed them as well as him.

Alisvolatpropiis Sat 29-Dec-12 23:21:34


One has been rehabiltated hasn't he? Or I sincerely hope he has. I remember reading he had a job,a girlfriend and a baby.

The other one is or at least was,back in prison. Child pornography and being a danger to himself. As in,he couldn't be trusted to not tell people who he really was.

OutragedFromLeeds Sat 29-Dec-12 23:26:51

'I don't believe either of them had the emotional capacity to think "we are going to torture this child to death, his parents will cry at his funeral". '

I think there is a difference between emotinal capacity/empathy and social knowledge.

I agree that they didn't have the emotional capacity to empathise with him or his parents, but I don't think this means they didn't understand that what they were doing was wrong or that his tears were a result of their actions in that moment.

I punch him = he cries, I kick him = he cries more, crying = sad/hurt/upset. That's social knowledge.

Your DS not understanding why the others were crying is not the same as knowing and doing it anyway.

If those boys truly had no concept that what they were doing was wrong or no understanding of the cause and effect relationship between hurting him and him being hurt they should never have been convicted. That's why we don't convict the mentally ill or very young children.

I'm sure they had psychologists to determine if they understood what they had done. I'm also glad that we give children a chance of rehabilitation, although it doesn't seem to have worked for venables

Alisvolatpropiis Sat 29-Dec-12 23:28:33

Venables has gone to prison again.

garlicbaubles Sat 29-Dec-12 23:29:01

Some people are born with faulty 'wiring' which makes them incapable of empathy, or incapable of caring, or incapable of compassion however you define that.

There is no definite evidence on whether such people are also shaped by their environment. Current opinion is that people who do 'evil' things and don't care were both born with an abnormality and subjected to dis-compassion in their early years.

I don't believe in evil. I do believe that some people should have limited contact with the rest of society because of potentially dangerous abnormalities. I do not believe any child should be branded 'evil'.

<why have I even posted on this??!>

Alisvolatpropiis Sat 29-Dec-12 23:32:27

That wasn't in reply to you Moomins I'd mentioned them earlier and couldn't remember which one was in prison now.

I am glad to live in a country where people like Thompson and Venables are at least given the chance to be rehabilitated. But by the same token it's such an emotive issue too every time I think about it I feel differently.

OutragedFromLeeds Sat 29-Dec-12 23:32:40

' I do believe that some people should have limited contact with the rest of society because of potentially dangerous abnormalities'

even if they've never done anything violent/aggressive? Just the potential is enough? Do you write for the Daily Mail?

Potentially dangerous abnormalities? How will decide what that is?

You might as well say bring back institutions.

Who will decide what a potentially dangerous abnormality is? That should say

sunshine401 Sat 29-Dec-12 23:53:20

I don't get that ?

rainbow2000 Sun 30-Dec-12 00:13:57

I think James Bulgers killers knew exactly what they were doing they had ample oppurtunity to get him some where safe and they didnt.Also i think people have a hard time in believing people are capable of some of the most disgusting things ever imagined but they are.

Plus a lot of serial murders arent solved so they are very intelligant and only get caught over something stupid,they very rarely get caught in the act.

Peter Sutcliffe was questioned 3 times and got away with it,he was caught cause some police officer became suspicious and found the hammer.

Plus they are charm personified so thye actually charm the people who should know better.I dont knoe if they are born evil or not but percentages wise they would have to be really.

Sparrowp Sun 30-Dec-12 03:02:29

Its the environment. Even in the womb, if the mother is in a stressful environment and has more stress hormones, it is a signal to the baby of the environment it is being born into. I think this means genes are activated/dormant in response to suit the harsher environment.

I wonder if the children in the Bulger case were just passing on what they had learned from their environment, because it was normal to them.

That explains why good rehabilitation reduces rates of reoffending. Putting people in a positive environment means they respond differently, with different genes being activated or dormant.

digerd Sun 30-Dec-12 11:38:55

So, being a sadist - enjoying inflicting pain on others is not a genetic trait?

skratta Sun 30-Dec-12 11:49:04

I think serial murders can be quite intelligent, but according to my best friend (defense criminal lawyer, has been on a few murder cases in the Old Bailey, also was unfortunate enough to have been on a jury for a murder case- must be horrifying to do that) murderers are usually quite stupid, or at least its not thought through.

I think child murderers are incredibly different to adult murderers. I'm fairly sure no child murderer is actually evil- a product of a bad enviroment (it makes me sick thinking about the abuse both of them suffered), or maybe even mental health issues, or being pushed too far, but I think it must take a lot to make a child murder- most children would be playing football, or with their friends having fun, or riding their bike, and something must have twisted them into doing it. Adult murderers are different, because, unless they have mental health issues, or mental difficulties, they have more of a control over their life. Children can be abused, pushed and forced, but, to a large extent, adults have a larger control over their life (of course this isn't always true) and also have a larger control over their reactions.

insancerre Sun 30-Dec-12 13:00:12

skratta, but don't you think that the adult murderers have been through the same experiences as the child murderers? They will not have the control over their lives if their brains have been hardwired to act in certain ways. Which is what the environment does to developing brains from before birth and for a few yeras afterwards.
I don't see any difference between people who murder as a child and those who murder as adult except age.

Nancy66 Sun 30-Dec-12 13:13:47

who remembers this case

those responsible behaved in a truly sick, twisted and evil way to the extent it is hard to feel any sympathy. However they did have the most horrendous childhoods. they weren't born evil but, I guess, a decade of being raised with no love, no respect, no care - just abuse and violence will take its toll.

Well sadism is a behavioural disorder so doesn't have to be genetic, it is likely to be a learnt behaviour.

skratta Sun 30-Dec-12 13:36:22

Not necessarily.

For instance, my friend was abused as a child (sexually, as well as physically and emotionally). She now goes to therapy and counselling. She is struggling, is bad at developing relationships, is quite introverted but at the same time is desperate to please (maybe a kind of defence mechanism as a child? Pleasing your parents might make them love her?). She has suffered a lot, and is still a really good friend, but she has more control over her life now. She has no family to support her, so I've been to a number of counselling/therapy sessions with her (most are 1:1, but especially in therapy they seem to want her to bring someone to rely on/feel familiar with). I can't believe she's gone through it, it makes me feel so angry- my friend also deals with anger problems (mostly self-harm, she doesn't hit out she hits herself).

A child has no chance of therapy or counselling. Often they are living through the abuse, not the issues of after abuse. An adult murderer will be dealing with the past- an abusive past, which is hard, challenging, emotional and difficult, and leads to so many feelings and problems- but a child will be right in the thick of it, you could say. They have no way out. They'll be coming home to be hit or sexually abused or any number of things, and they can't escape.

I think the difference of age means a difference in dealing. There's also a large difference in people. Like I explained above, my friend had a problem with self-harm (although she doesn't do this now, I think, she still has a tendency to self blame and to hate herself- she has terrible self-confidence, and doesn't think anyone can really like/love her) by turning the pain and anger she suffers, and in turn needs to release, onto herself- a way of almost 'punishing' herself for what's happened- she can blame her parents obviously, and is starting to manage that, but blaming your parents is actually a very hard thing to do, to be able to say to someone 'I hate my parents. They made me suffer. They're not right. They're wrong. I was just a defenceless child, and they abused me.' She wants to blame someone, and the easiest victim, especially after years of being told how terrible, ugly, wrong, needy etc; she is by her parents, is herself.

Other people might turn outwards, and direct their pain and anger onto someone else- I think that's why children who watch one of their parents suffer domestic abuse are more likely to abuse their partner (this is more common in boys, and girls are normally more likely to become a victim, so learned behaviour, but it also works the other way round as girls either follow their mother if she is the abuser, or attempt to 'fight back' for their mother by abusing someone- a lot of children who witness domestic abuse obviously do not become abusers, most of them probably won't, but it's one of the possible results)- they can blame someone else, hate someone else, turn all their pain onto someone else.

How can a child realistically speak out? SS obviously, sometimes they can be taken into care, but a child who is being abused and not spotted will have no real way to direct their anger or pain safely. I remember as a child (non-abused) that when I was angry, I'd punch my pillow or my bed or squeeze something really hard. That was normal teenage anger. What would I have done if I had proper, difficult pain and anger stemming from being abused? Where I could get rid of the hurt and other emotions?

Adults can vent more safely- they can speak out, they will be heard, most aren't being abused at that time. Can children really do that? Being in the thick of abuse can never be the same as after the abuse, and the effects are terrible, hard, difficult and emotional (as I said before), but different.

^^ Is all stuff I've gleaned from my friend/my opinions/going to the therapy/counselling with her. Of course, my friend could be different, but the therapist doesn't seem to think so. I might be wrong obviously as I'm lucky to have no direct experience of abuse.

aladdinsane Sun 30-Dec-12 14:38:50

'wiring' takes place during early development
Children are not born fully 'wired' so no-one is born with faulty wiring
The human brain is the most underdeveloped at birth of all the species
Wiring, or neurodevelopment,takes place according to early experiences

grimbletart Sun 30-Dec-12 15:06:20

Be interesting to know what the background etc. was of the six charged yesterday with the murder of the Indian student.

You wonder what would make six different men gang rape a girl they did not know for an hour, beat her with an iron bar, then ram a car jack handle up her, pulling out her intestines.

Clearly they were not over endowed with empathy.

So what sort of background could have engendered such hate that they behaved like a pack of wild creatures? Cultural misogyny, poverty, personal bad experiences in their families etc?

I would be surprised if we do not at some point find a mixture of genes governing our innate tendencies towards empathy (lack of), compassion (lack of), violence (lack of) etc. After all, we have no difficulty in believing that a mixture of genes causes hair colour, eye colour, a proportion of intelligence etc.

Then add the environmental factors - abusive, controlling etc. background and you have what is commonly described as 'evil'.

Personally I have no difficulty describing these men as evil. It would be statistically unlikely that they were all psychopaths. But were they born evil? Doubt it. There must have been some trigger..

garlicbaubles Sun 30-Dec-12 15:28:31

no-one is born with faulty wiring

Would you say that about autistic people, aladdin? Or people with other 'filtering' disorders; sensory, cognitive and/or emotional?

Personality disorders are, likewise, 'filtering' impairments. There are as many different expressions of life experience as there are individuals. Each one is the unique outcome of the individual's genes and experience combined.

amillionyears Sun 30-Dec-12 15:39:15

Agree garlic.

The bible says that some people are sons of the evil one.
That there is no truth in them.

amillionyears Sun 30-Dec-12 15:41:24

But we cannot judge.
From our perspective, I dont think we can tell who is who.

Some people do bad behaviour partly because of their upbringing.
And they may regret it in later life and apologise.

But some people would do it anyway.
And never regret it.

garlicbaubles Sun 30-Dec-12 15:56:29

You know I'd disagree with you on the veracity of the bible and the existence of an evil one, amillion, but it does represent extensive observations of human nature over thousands of years so has plenty to say on the matter smile

I think your remark about some people who would regret their bad socially unhelpful behaviours, compared with those who feel no regret, may be a little blunt but serves well enough. Contemporary research is showing a genetic component to psychopathy, with implications for other personality disorders as well.

One problem is that the two factors are likely to combine in a person who turns out 'bad'. If you inherit psychopathic tendencies from a parent, chances are that same parent will inflict damaging experiences on you during your formative years sad

Without even slightly trying to excuse the awful things those Indian men did - many young Indian men suffer in an almost psychopathic society, being indentured to effective slavery from the age of 13 to 30, exposed to caste- and poverty-related abuse; generally living unpleasant lives with little margin for empathy or compassion. That stuff must be enough to tip some over the edge.

skratta Sun 30-Dec-12 15:57:35

I think amillionyears got it right. We cannot judge, we haven't got the perspective, we can't know. Some people will regret and be sorry, probably many child murderers might/will, but some people won't ever regret and sometimes they say they regret but don't.

AmberLeaf Sun 30-Dec-12 17:14:25

Wiring, or neurodevelopment,takes place according to early experiences

That is not true.

gordyslovesheep Sun 30-Dec-12 17:21:48

no people are NOT 'born evil' what a daft idea

insancerre Sun 30-Dec-12 17:33:00

I thought that recent research into brain neuroscience shows that early experiences do influence brain development.
It's what I read when I did my degree in to early childhood studies

JakeBullet Sun 30-Dec-12 17:40:15

Lots of research looking at the neglected brain. The first two years are crucial in brain development and the differences between brain size is very marked in children who have been neglected. sad

There has been a lot of investment in early years (that being the first two years) support and stressing the importance of affection and interaction. Will find some links if I get time.... clear I am not talking about things like controlled crying being neglect (although I know it's a whole other debate) but global neglect of interaction and helping a baby feel secure.

garlicbaubles Sun 30-Dec-12 17:44:06

As far as anyone can tell, they do. Also possible that hormone composition in utero affects neurological development. Baby brain so different from fully-developed one, impossible to test accurately. They have to deduce by correlation; not a fully reliable method. Genetics also influence; observed and now tested.

garlicbaubles Sun 30-Dec-12 17:44:44

YY, Jake. Romanian orphans case in point.

AmberLeaf Sun 30-Dec-12 17:45:08

Early experience can influence brain development yes.

But 'neurodevelopment' does not take place according to early experiences as alladin put it.

My child has a neurodevelopmental disorder. the disorder occured prior to birth probably in the embryonic stage.

Talk about being 'wired differently' is common in the autistic world, so you need to be very careful about statements like that or you'll be talking about refridgerator mothers etc.

JakeBullet Sun 30-Dec-12 17:45:59

Quick link...only from the Telegraph but easy to read. It's not the only answer of course. As others point out the environment within the womb can also play a part.

Link is here

insancerre Sun 30-Dec-12 17:46:43

it's an area I found fascinating, Jake. Just the fact that external experiences can physically affect a baby's brain and their whole life. Their emotions, their learning, their temperamant, their memory, all rely on the those pathways connecting together at the right time.

propertyNIGHTmareBEFOREXMAS Sun 30-Dec-12 17:46:52

I think shit parenting probably has a rather large hand in people turning evil. However, you probably get some types who are just properly fucked in the head and even the pope for a dad could not have put them right.

aladdinsane Sun 30-Dec-12 18:31:15

Amber - I included time in the womb as being part of the environment in which development takes place
My daughter was certainly negatively affected by being born to a mother who abused alcohol and drugs - she is adopted
Children may also be born with disorders such as autism but the brain has a very basic network at birth
Neuronal pathways are laid down according to early experiences. In children these pathways are very inefficient and a kind of pruning takes place during adolescence. The brain is not fully developed until about age 30 but smaller changes can occur
If an area of the brain is not stimulated in the early years it will not develop

This is all very simplified as how the left and right sides of the brain work together has a big impact
And, like I said, various conditions have an effect
My son has autism and I don't believe he feels any real empathy but he is kind. I think it is more of a learnt behaviour than real emotion and is controlled by cognition rather than feeling

AmberLeaf Sun 30-Dec-12 19:10:31

OK but when people say 'early experiences' what that is usually understood to mean is from birth to say three years of age.

Not time spent in the womb.

So your initial statement was wrong in a wider context.

Don't disagree with your points about how babies can be affected by maternal drug and alcohol abuse.

My son has autism too, I actually see signs of empathy in him, things he will say or do unprompted. But they are all different.

aladdinsane Mon 31-Dec-12 09:43:45

Sorry Amber, I did say up thread - probably a couple of pages ago - that I was including time in the womb when talking about environmental factors

I wouldn't call it 'wiring' I was referring to different post. I feel uncomfortable talking about people being wired differently when it is used to describe both serial killers/psychopaths and those with ASD
My son has autism - this does not make him a danger to others, my adopted daughter however, I fear for hers, and our futures. She had a terrible early start,her time in the care system was no better and she was capable of real harm at a very young age - under 2

AmberLeaf Mon 31-Dec-12 09:49:42

Sorry Alladdinsane, I must have missed it blush

I feel uncomfortable talking about people being wired differently when it is used to describe both serial killers/psychopaths and those with ASD

I know what you mean and I agree totally.

I wish your daughter well.

My Mum was a foster parent so I have some understanding of the affects of early neglect, From a long term perspective though, it wasn't always bad. There were lots of children she looked after that despite terribly traumatic starts have actually gone on to be happy and well adjusted [still in touch years later]

droves Mon 31-Dec-12 11:17:47

Wtf has autism got in common with serial killing ?

Bloody insulting turn of thread.

Lump all neurological conditions and disorders together , because that makes it easier to discriminate against anyone who isn't neurotypical .

One person recently committed a mass shooting ( horrendous , poor children ) , and because he had or was thought to have asd now all asd people are potential murderers ? Can someone please explain why is it that most people without asd who commit murder / manslaughter , but everyone without asd isn't a potential murderer ?

It's too easy just to blame an available label isn't it ? .

garlicbaubles Mon 31-Dec-12 11:24:43

Droves, I think the discussion is mainly about whether neurological differences/disorders are genetically determined or not. People have gone out of their way to stress they're not linking autism with so-called evil.

garlicbaubles Mon 31-Dec-12 11:28:06

The article you linked to was startling, Jake, thanks. It bothered me that the author stressed the mother's influence on baby development. I was under the impression that any adult's constructive interaction with the child would promote healthy development, not necessarily a woman or even a genetic parent.

droves Mon 31-Dec-12 12:03:30

Sorry posted too soon .

I honestly believe there is such a thing as " evil" .
It's what causes cruelty to animals.
It's the thing that causes one human being to hurt another .
It's what causes some men to rape and abuse .
It's what causes child neglect and cruelty.
It's what causes wars
It's what causes pervasive and unrelenting discrimination against others that are " different" , be it because of race religion gender disability or economic status.

I don't believe one thing causes or prevents it .

Not every child who suffers abuse ,cruelty and a harrowing childhood grows up to be a killer . Most dont.

Many people thought to be " evil " have had good lives , been brought up in loving homes , with kind and thoughtful parents , but they still end up twisted and wanting to hurt others . Loads of people do this on a small scale ( not just killing people ) , like abandoning or neglecting their children , or battering their partners or cheating on them (too many things to list tbh iykwim ). Because this is common it's sort of overlooked as being " evil " , but is this intentionally causes hurt and pain to others , (which is the point of " evil ". )

When you look at it this way it's a sliding scale of nasty selfish or cruel behaviour , the " evil" people are just at the high end of that scale .

Something has went wrong somewhere so they have lost the ability to keep their own ego in check and to think of others as equally as important as themselves . When they lost the ability to think about other people having feelings and worth, they view them as objects with no real value except as " toys " for amusement ...and they lose respect for life .

Sometimes , I see children with an astounding capacity for cruelty , but when you look at their parents you see they act in a similar fashion. Who knows if it's something genetic that's passed down or bad behaviour that's never been chastised ?

When you read about evil , it is almost given that somewhere amongst the words there will be startling similarities between people who have committed these acts of evil ...usually a few dictators and mass murderers will be compared. However given that in history those that were quite willing to do whatever they felt neccessary quite often ended up as kings or leaders , it's a questionable job requirement . How many ancient monarchs murdered to get to and stay in power ...not all inherited the title .
Perhaps the " evil " was a requirement of survival left over from days of early man where being " evil" ensured that you stayed alive , and were allowed to produce offspring . Problem is there is no such requirement for violent nasty behaviours anymore , but now and again a throwback emerges and turns " evil", when in the " right" conditions ( or wrong , depending how you look at it).

It must be a combination of factors that creates evil , so whilst some people may be born with the potential to become truly evil at the top end of the scale , thankfully ,relatively few actually do .

droves Mon 31-Dec-12 12:10:26

Sigh ....garlic ...its always the mothers fault . ( because mother are women and everything gets blamed on women , even though most murderers are male)


Let's call it eve-blaming .

AmberLeaf Mon 31-Dec-12 12:15:15

I really do struggle with the notion that evil is some seperate entity though.

It just isn't.

Its scales of human behavior.

droves Mon 31-Dec-12 12:22:11

Amber , some would struggle to accept that it isn't a separate entity .

They like their " evil" dressed in red , with horns and a tail .

It's much scarier to admit that " evil" might be your next door neighbour , your postman , or even part of yourself .

digerd Mon 31-Dec-12 16:34:23

It depends on the personal definition of "evil". Interesting that the word for malignant, as in cancerous, in german language is the same word as "evil".
In English we put a D infront of evil - Devil- but in german it is a different word entirely.
A sadist is evil, surely.

garlicbaubles Mon 31-Dec-12 18:46:07

Some sadists argue that they're not 'evil' because they have personality disorders that make compassion/empathy impossible. They find the effects of pain (in others) amusing or interesting. Everyone who's ever laughed at a prat-fall, or watched a cut worm sort itself out, should be able to understand this a little bit.

Some sadists consider themselves evil and cause pain out of an irresistible compulsion; it's a terrible addiction for them, with the highs and remorse of a junkie.

Some are sadistic almost incidentally: their drug is power. Exertion of power generally does cause pain to others.

garlicbaubles Mon 31-Dec-12 18:47:10

(I'm not saying those are discrete types, btw. AFAIK there's some of each in every sadist.)

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