No one ever explained my mother’s illness to me, and the trauma I experienced had lasting effects. I worry that young people nowadays face the same challenges
When I was 12, my mother cornered me in the bathroom of our suburban Vancouver home. “Your teeth are too yellow,” she said, handing me a can of Comet.
Though disappointed that little about me ever pleased my parent, I understood from past experience how to get through the current predicament. I sprinkled green powder on my toothbrush and did my best to not let any of it go down my throat while I scrubbed.
The things I didn’t do: report her to authorities; confide in a reliable adult; tell my school friends; cry. Perhaps my mother was right and my teeth were ugly. Or perhaps the shame I felt overshadowed the grievous nature of her request.
As my sole guardian, my mother was the most important person in my life. And under her roof, I played by her rules, no matter how bizarre, because losing her was unthinkable. I didn’t know she suffered from psychosis. I only knew that when she stared at me, her brown eyes near black and glittering with relentless intensity, what she saw didn’t meet her approval.
“an invasive apprehension moved into my nervous system. Just the tap of her heels on the kitchen linoleum sent my heart rate into rapid ascent” more
“Childhood trauma does not come in one single package.” ― Asa Don Brown
Deeply traumatic experiences, especially during childhood, can have an even deeper impact in adult life. They can significantly shape an individual’s personality and life choices, spurring research into the connection between childhood abuse and criminal behavior. In particular, the extent of childhood abuse reported among serial killers has raised the question: Are serial killers born or made?
Nature vs Nurture
Not all abused children become serial killers, and not all serial killers are victims of childhood abuse. However, the connection between the two cannot be dismissed as just coincidence. According to criminologist Dr Adrian Raine, both biologic and social factors contribute to the making of a murderer. Reviews of more than 100 twin and adoption analyses showed that approximately 50% of variance in antisocial behavior is attributable to genetic influences. In his book, The Anatomy of Violence, Dr Raine explains that “Genetics and environment work together to encourage violent behavior.” For example, those with a specific variant of the enzyme monoamine-oxidase-A gene are more prone to displaying violent behavior if they have had an abusive upbringing. A child susceptible to genetically driven violent conduct does not necessarily become a criminal. However, genetics, in tandem with environmental factors such as violent childhood experiences, work together to shape a person. more