Edward Theodore Gein and Factors that led to his Criminal Behavior

Edward Theodore Gein was an American serial criminal who gained celebrity status in the 1950s due to his atrocious and horrifying crimes of murder and mutilation. Besides admitting to have killed two women within his hometown of Plainfield, Wisconsin, Gein exhumed corpses from local graveyards and created trophies and keepsakes from human bones and skin (Blanco, 2020). His activities were unknown to authorities until 1957 when the missing status of one of his victims impelled a search around his home. The police not only found the body of the missing person but also a collection of body parts belonging to other victims in Gein’s shed. On account of his acts, Gein was initially confined in a mental health institution, but was later tried in 1968 and sentenced to life imprisonment in a mental facility. Gein may not exemplify the characteristics of typical serial killer because of his few murders. Nevertheless, his real-life case is a demonstration of the psychological and behavioral leanings of a serial criminal. Were it not for getting discovered, Gein would have most likely continued with his deadly actions. This essay delves into the biological, situational, environmental, and developmental factors that led to his criminal behavior.

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            In order to fully comprehend the conditional aspects that may have influenced Gein’s behavior, it is essential to explore the context of his upbringing and social life. Gein was born in La Crosse County to George and Augusta, both of whom were Wisconsin natives (Blanco, 2020). He was the younger brother to Henry George Gein. Although the marriage between his parents was quite unhealthy, the family was bound together by religious beliefs. Augusta had a deep hatred towards her husband and an extreme custom of preventing his sons from gaining influence from outsider. This custom was manifested more patently when she bought a farm in the outskirts of Plainsfield to safeguard her children from harm. Augusta restricted the movement of her sons to the farm and limited their beliefs (Blanco, 2020).

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As a fervent Lutheran, she occasionally preached to her children about the innate immorality of the world, the sin of drinking, and the idea that women were instruments of evil and prostitution. At school, Gein was a target of bullies on account of his effeminate demeanor, and since he was not allowed to make friends, he would exhibit socially awkward behaviors. Gein’s frequent attempts to please her mother were meant with coldness and disapproval. The deaths of family members turned the situation from bad to worse. After the death of his father in 1940, Gein and his brother began to work at odd jobs, such as baby sitting. Soon, his brother died under mysterious circumstances while his mother passed on after a series of strokes. It was after the bereavement of all his family that Gein began to read death cult magazines and adventure tales.

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            The backdrop of Gein’s childhood events provides an apparent picture of the situational factors that eventually led to his shadowy habits. One of the most significant factors that constrained Gein is her mother’s strict ethical and social limitations as well as her aggressiveness towards her sons. These limitations acted negatively on Gein’s social and mental development (Mitchell & Aamodt, 2005). Social, interaction, intimacy and a sense of belonging are necessary needs for human social and mental development. It is by interacting with others that children are acquire a frame of reference for developing their social identities. Relationships are particularly essential in childhood during the development of identity and lifetime trajectories of behavioral and emotional behavior (Matthews et al., 2015). By restraining Gein’s social connection and behaviors, Augusta was controlling his thoughts, feelings and behavioral influences. The absence of social relationships and interactions may have disadvantaged Gein’s development since all he could experience was the harmful and aggressive attitudes of his mother (Cohen, Brown, & Smailes, 2001). The lack of a frame of reference for his identity is manifested by his effeminate nature. It seems that Gein used her mother’s character as a model of reference because of the absence of any other role models in his life. This was compounded by the fact that Gein’s father did not add value to Augusta’s parenting habits. Rather, he was an alcoholic who served as bad example in all of Augusta’s counsels.

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Apart from social restrictions and poor role models, Gein was subjected to intimidation not only by his mother but by the very peers who were supposed to be his friends. The constant bullying he received from school may have made Gein more insecure and on guard. Even if he was not being actively bullied all the time, he was aware it could start anytime. This made his feel isolated, unaccepted, withdrawn, and possibly angry. The resulting stress may have further acted on Gein’s neurological development. High levels of stress have been proven to activate the stress system and promote over-secretion of hormones, resulting in strange behavior, such Gein’s occasional laughter’s in the classroom (McEwen & Karatsoreos, 2015). Victims of bullying may experience long-term mental effects accompanied by social pain and feeling of rejection. The mental effects of Gein were clearly evident in his average academic performance and odd behavioral mannerisms.

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Since Gein was mostly confined to his mother’s environment, the relationship of attachment he gained with her was unusual and psychologically damaging. He regarded her a saint just as she had referred herself indirectly during her regular religious teachings. Augusta continually brainwashed Gein and his brother with the notion that all women were evil except herself. It is likely that Gein developed a saintly perception of his mother to cope with the psychological abuse. The bond that he developed through his childhood later controlled him for the rest of his lifetime. The home became a shrine where he mutilated bodies and corpses. Gein was so attached to her mother that he was confused as to whether his personality ended and where her mother’s began. His actions showed that he only relate to himself through his mother’s character. Hence, once she was gone, he attempted to revive himself by collecting parts of dead bodies.

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In conclusion, the situational, developmental, environmental, and biological factors context of Gein’s childhood are what steered him towards his criminal behaviors. The environmental and social restriction he underwent under the abuse of his mother led him to develop a strange personality. This was worsened by the absence of a reliable father figure and the imposition of harsh and aggressive treatment towards him. Short-term effects of her emotional and mental torture materialized in poor academic performance and discordance with peers.

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