Neurodevelopmental and psychosocial risk factors in serial killers and mass murderers

Clare S. Allely, Helen Minnis, Lucy Thompson, Philip Wilson, Christopher Gillberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)
69 Downloads (Pure)


Multiple and serial murders are rare events that have a very profound societal impact. We have conducted a systematic review, following PRISMA guidelines, of both the peer reviewed literature and of journalistic and legal sources regarding mass and serial killings. Our findings tentatively indicate that these extreme forms of violence may be a result of a highly complex interaction of biological, psychological and sociological factors and that, potentially, a significant proportion of mass or serial killers may have had neurodevelopmental disorders
such as autism spectrum disorder or head injury. Research into multiple and serial murders is in its infancy: there is a lack of rigorous studies and most of the literature is anecdotal and speculative. Specific future study of the potential role of neurodevelopmental disorders in multiple and serial murders is warranted and, due to the rarity of these events, innovative research techniques may be required.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)288-301
Number of pages13
JournalAggression and Violent Behavior
Issue number3
Early online date18 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - May 2014


  • Autistic Spectrum Disorder;
  • Serial killer
  • Mass murder
  • Brain injury
  • Psychosocial stressors


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