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Eric W. Hickey


Growing up in a single-parent household has been associated with exposure to adverse childhood experiences that contribute to negative short- and long-term psychological and behavioral outcomes, including violent behavior. It is unclear, however, whether a single-parent upbringing predicts the scale of a perpetrator’s violence. The current study examined the scale of violence through measures of frequency and duration, correlated with a single-parent upbringing among male serial killers who operated alone in the United States. In a nonexperimental, cross-sectional design, I used a multivariate analysis of variance to compare 85 male serial killers raised by a single parent with 85 male serial killers raised by two birth parents across four measures of violence scale: the number of victims suspected, the number of victims confessed to, the number of victims convicted of having killed, and the duration of violent homicidal behavior. The findings yielded no statistically significant relationship between the parental structure of the male serial killer’s childhood home and the 4 measures of scale of long-term repeated homicidal violence. This study contributes to the understanding of the role of a single-parent upbringing in long-term extreme, recurrent, prolonged violence by suggesting that while a single-parent upbringing and violence are correlated, a single-parent upbringing and the magnitude of that violence may not be. By revealing the limits of the association between a single-parent upbringing and long-term violence, efforts to predict long-term violence scale can focus more precisely on the underlying adverse childhood experiences that are frequently, but not exclusively, commensurate with a single-parent upbringing.

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