The research aimed to explore the phenomenon of serial murder from a systems theory perspective. The purpose of the study was to develop an understanding of serial murder in a South African context from a family systems approach. Utilizing a family systems theoretical framework and the genogram method, the study, which was qualitative in nature, explored information about the family systems of individuals who committed serial murder via content analysis. The investigation focused mainly on emotional processes, multigenerational and relationship patterns in family systems. Information was gathered from numerous sources and included interviews conducted inter alia with individuals currently incarcerated for serial murder and their family members, and with professionals involved with such individuals; as well as information obtained from clinical observations and archival data. The results of the content analysis demonstrated considerable similarities but also differences in the organization and functioning of the family systems of individuals who committed serial murder. Importantly, the analysis shed novel theoretical light on the role of serial murder within family systems and challenged established dominant theoretical perspectives on serial murder that have emphasized linear, causal and/or individual-focused explanations. The study opened up considerable opportunities for further exploration of the phenomenon from a systemic perspective, specifically with the focus on the meaning of serial murder in relatively smaller (e.g., parent-child or peer relationships) or larger (e.g., political, cultural and societal) systems. It also provided opportunities for alternative vistas from which the phenomenon of serial murder can be viewed in terms of theoretical, definitional, typological, investigative and correctional approaches.
Thesis (PhD (Psychology))--University of Pretoria, 2006.