Motivation for Murder

Intentionally killing someone is an extreme act to carry out. Even during wars soldiers can become traumatised by the killing of another human being, it goes against everything we are taught not to do as grow older, however, in a war it is often acceptable and soldiers are trained to cope with that environment. Their motivation to kill is not considered a murder, but a duty to protect. But what is it that motivates others? What makes a person kill another? Revenge possibly, but then what about murders carried out on innocent people, homicides committed with no motivation but intention to do so?

One of the major contributions to homicide is drugs. History has shown that drug related crimes have risen over the years at an alarming rate and several European countries showing the worst effects (North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 2008). Drug related crimes are offences committed when the perpetrator commits acts of crime whilst under the influence of drugs or these acts are related to the use (Crutchfield, 2000). For example stealing from others is often connected frequently with people who abuse drugs. In 1992 a study conducted in New York to find out how much money heroin users were stealing revealed that daily heroine users had net costs of $22,844, where as irregular heroine users had a cost of $5,592 (Staley).

Between 1980 and 1999 the trend of homicides slightly declined, but there were huge differences between countries. Even though America’s rates declined they were still by far the country with the highest homicides when compared to others. America had a rate four times higher than the average mean and in 1999 a person living in America was 10 times more likely to be a victim of homicide than the Japanese. The big reason was due the ownership of firearms in America (Tiffen & Gittins, 2004). In 2000 66% of murders in America were because of firearms.

The amount of homicides committed by females is far lower than those committed by males, 11% of homicides in the UK are by females and attract a significant amount of attention from the media. However, these murders often have a similar connection. Victims are their intimate partners, their own children and from the domestic setting. Data has also shown that the majority of females who are either the committers or even the victims of the homicide have had experiences of domestic violent abuse from their male partner. When the female is the murderer it is often an act of revenge or a final desperate struggle for control back in their lives. In circumstances where the female has been a victim of homicide from their partner it is due to a lack of self control by the male (Brookman 2005).

There are many reasons behind murder sometimes a link between murderers found is a psychosocial deprivation from an early age; this includes things like child abuse and family neglect. However, this does not explain those with a normal upbringing but still committed a homicide. In 1998 it was suggested that what linked these types of murderers could be a prefrontal glucose deficit. When murderers who had been psychosocially deprived were compared to those who did not, results showed a significantly lower prefrontal glucose metabolism in those with no psychosocial deprivation (Raine, Phil, Stoddard, Bihrle & Buchsbaum). With all of these things taken into account what is it that makes a person commit a murder? What do they think of before it happens, and do they even think about it first?


Brookman, F. (2005). Understanding Homicide, SAGE, 161-162.

Crutchfield, R. D. Crime: Readings, Pine Forge Press, 497.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization, (2008), Political Violence, Organized Crimes, Terrorism and Youth, volume 46, IOS Press.

Raine, A., Phil, D., Stoddard, J., Bihrle, S., & Buchsbaum, M. (1998). Prefrontal glucose deficits in murderers lacking psychosocial deprivation, Department of Psychology, University of Southern California, Neuropsychology & Behavioural Psychology, 11, (1), 1-7.

Staley, S. (1992). Drug Policy and the Decline of American Cities, Transaction Publishers, 107-117.

Tiffen, R., & Gittins, R. (2004). How Australia Compares, Cambridge Univeristy Press, 225-226.


2 thoughts on “Motivation for Murder

  1. I think many murderers do think about their actions before they carry them out. Ted Bundy, a serial killer was seen as a socio-path because he had little feeling towards the people he killed and actually enjoyed the act. The phenomenon of murder is that sometimes there is little motive present.
    Resnick (1970) found that those who commit neonaticide have very few psychiatric problems, moreover it is that the baby is unwanted or conflicts with the parents ambitions. The fact that a baby could be murdered because of the ambitions of a parent seems striking, however within history this has not been so uncommon. The Spartans were a historical group that would leave any baby who was birthed with complications or deemed as weak outside the city gates to die, there was no malicious intent behind this, it was just a side effect of their mindset to breed the strongest soldiers.
    Just 75 years ago, Hitler commanded the extermination of almost an entire ethnic group. His explanation for this may not be rational but many Germans followed him for the same agentic reasoning as soldiers would kill other humans today. They convinced themselves that the Jews were not as good as themselves and that it was for the good of the German people. This agentic impulse for murder has been shown by Milgram (1963). This shows that intentions can sometimes be an extension from another’s commands and murder is not always to do with the person who carries out the act. Milgram’s study shows that murder or physical harm of others can be conducted by people from all walks of life and it is not just specific malicious perpetrators.
    If we are to look at the reasons why people murder, I think the historical aspect is an important one because it offers us an insight to the human condition throughout the ages. The news would have us believe that the world is more violent now than ever before but it seems murder has been an integral part of society for thousands of years.

    Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral Study of obedience.The Journal of Abnormal and many murderers do think Social Psychology, 67(4), 371-378. doi: 10.1037/h0040525

    Resnick, P. J.(1970). Murder of the newborn: A psychiatric review of neonaticide.
    The American Journal of Psychiatry, 126(10), , 1414-1420.

  2. Pingback: The Mailoni Brothers: A case for superstition or for careful examination? | Amazing Focus

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