Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Thesis


Serial murders, Rapists -- Psychology ; Murderers -- Psychology, Criminal behavior, Prediction of


This thesis presents a review and modification of Wilson and Herrnstein's integrated theory of criminality in an effort to explain serial murder and serial rape. The crimes of serial murder and serial rape are described as offenses which appear to be unprovoked and "senseless" and as well are predatory and repetitious in nature. The objective of this thesis is to further understand and explain the occurrence of these particular criminal offenses through the integration of existing theories of behavior.

Wilson and Herrnstein's theory is discussed and modified specifically to address the criminality exhibited by serial murderers and serial rapists. Their theory is used as a framework. Based upon Wilson and Herrnstein's multi-disciplinary approach, behavioral explanations from biology, psychology, sociology, and criminology are presented under the categories of biosocial influence, developmental influence, situational influence and addiction.

Additionally, the specific crimes of serial murder and serial rape are characterized and established typologies discussed. Serial murder is defined as three or more incidents of homicide with a "cooling off period" between murders and where clear or obvious motives are not present. Serial rape is defined as the incidence of predatory and repetitive acts in which a physically forceful attempt at sexual acts is made, when one of the individuals involved does not wish to participate.

The explanation developed in this thesis is based upon the assumption that the conceptual integration of biosocial, developmental and situational factors provides a more thorough explanation of serial murder and serial rape by addressing the interrelationships between the multiple motivations and reinforcements of these crimes. Furthermore, the concept of addiction is incorporated in to this explanation because of the many characteristics of addiction which serial murderers and serial rapists seem to manifest.

Additionally, an illustrative case history of a serial murderer and a composite study of a serial rapist are reviewed to elucidate the developed explanation. The case history is a review of Theodore Robert Bundy. The composite study is a representative synopsis of a serial rapist developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation based upon their research and interviews with 41 incarcerated serial rapists.

In conclusion, implications regarding possible prevention of serial murder and serial rape are briefly discussed. Both prevention through social practices and public policy are considered. Finally, a call for further research is made.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology

First Advisor

Ronald E. Roberts, Chair


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Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (vii, 140 leaves ; 28 cm)



File Format


Included in

Criminology Commons