Academic level – Undergrad. 1-2
Type of paper – Research paper
Topic Title – Jeffrey Dahmer: Psyche of a Killer
Research paper on Jefferey Dahmer
Considered one of the most horrifying and incomprehensible in U.S. history, Jeffrey Dahmer’s case offers a useful albeit troubling illustration of the deterioration of a human mind in an inadequate family environment and lack of social support. Known for the brutal murders of 17 men, Dahmer was arrested and found guilty. Due to parental absence, antisocial behaviors, and intentional cruelty, Dahmer killed his victims in an attempt to create a submissive partner who would comfort him while being a passive subject of admiration.
Jeffrey Dahmer’s life was marked by a lack of stability and parental involvement and a transition from a regular child to an outcast in his teenage and adult years. Dahmer was born in 1960 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; his parents were Lionel Herbert Dahmer and Joyce Annette Dahmer (Masters, 1993). His family often moved, developing a sense of instability in a young child. Dahmer’s mother was in a troubling mental state, often abusing prescription drugs and remaining passive in his youth. Dahmer’s father, a chemist, viewed his interest in animal bones and chemical elements as a young child’s fascination with the bizarre. However, when Dahmer became a teenager, he started to drink often and was seen as an outcast in school. When Dahmer was 18, his mother left him, taking only her younger son. Dahmer’s father attempted to persuade him to abandon his addiction and enlist him in the army. Dahmer was discharged due to his drinking behaviors, which continued when he started to live with his grandmother. During 13 years, Dahmer killed 17 men and was arrested in 1991 at the age of 31 (Chan, 2019). Dahmer received 16 life imprisonment for his crimes.
Dahmer’s choice of victims and the manner of their killing was characterized by the focus on young men and boys; his attacks were obsessively preplanned, and the bodies were carefully disposed of. Most serial killers view their first murder as the triggering factor. However, the first and second murders that Dahmer committed during his younger years were poorly planned. Even more, Dahmer confessed to not remembering murdering Steven Tuomi, his second victim (Chan, 2019). Only after the third murder did Dahmer feel more powerful to continue. His homosexual orientation caused Dahmer’s focus on men, but his desire to harm them was his own choice. Dahmer used various types of rendering his victims unconscious, including sleeping pills, blows with different objects, or simply killing them. Dahmer demonstrated a desire to have a completely submissive partner during his pursuit. In later attacks, Dahmer even attempted to inject hydrochloric acid into his victims’ skulls to make them forever obedient. Because Dahmer’s father taught him to dissolve bodies in acids, Dahmer efficiently hid the results of his murders. However, his neighbors often complained about the bad smells coming from his apartment.
Even though Dahmer’s lack of remorse and intentional antisocial behavior were the causes of the crimes committed, Dahmer’s unstable family life contributed to the development of troubling features of his personality. Lionel Dahmer was often quoted as reflecting on what he did wrong, believing that his relationship with his son or the failure to support him could have been the factors making Dahmer into a killer (Tichecott, 1997). Being a product of distant and emotionally unavailable parents as a child, Dahmer observed his mother’s suicidal tendencies, depressive state, and attention-seeking behaviors. Joyce was a passive presence in his life; she rarely paid attention to the children, drugging herself to sleep or indifference. After his parents divorced, she left Jeffrey and her husband. Dahmer admitted as much when he stated that his desire to kill his victims and preserve parts of their bodies resulted from his need for comfort (‘Dahmer offers no excuses,’ 1993). His mother’s passive state reflected Dahmer’s victims, whom he drugged and rendered senseless so that they would not escape.
Although Dahmer was diagnosed with multiple disorders, the trial decided that Dahmer was legally sane. The defense has appealed to Dahmer’s lack of understanding and a list of mental health illnesses that would prove his incapability to realize that his decisions were wrong. Dahmer had an addiction to killing, like a person involved in drug abuse (Lankford & Hayes, 2022). The final results revealed that Dahmer was a calculating and intelligent person who intentionally chose his victims from the groups that society would be unlikely to seek justice for. Smith (1992) notes that Patrik Dietz, the prosecution’s victim, commented that Dahmer’s desire to drink alcohol before and during murders revealed an understanding of the terrifying nature of his actions. Therefore, Dahmer was aware of his behavior and chose it purposefully, which meant he was legally sane.
The case of Jeffrey Dahmer illustrates how a lack of parental support, combined with antisocial tendencies and a lack of remorse, leads to horrific killings. Regardless of beliefs that Dahmer’s choices were affected by his family, the trial concluded that he did not lack the awareness necessary to consider him legally insane. Future research may want to study the combination of individual and external factors that affected Dahmer’s transformation into a criminal.
Chan, H. C. (2019). Global Casebook of Sexual Homicide. Springer.
Dahmer Offers No Excuses. (1993). The Journal Times.
Lankford, A., & Hayes, J. K. (2022). Could serial killing actually be addictive? A close examination of compulsion and escalation in the Jeffrey Dahmer case. Sexual Health; Compulsivity, 29(3–4), 198–224. https://doi.org/10.1080/26929953.2022.2126416
Masters, B. (1993). Shrine of Jeffrey Dahmer. Coronet.
Smith, J. (1992, February 12). Psychiatrist says Dahmer needed alcohol before he could kill. UPI. https://www.upi.com/Archives/1992/02/12/Psychiatrist-says-Dahmer-needed-alcohol-before-he-could-kill/1669697870800
Tithecott, R. (1997). Of men and monsters: Jeffrey Dahmer and the construction of the serial killer. University of Wisconsin Press.