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Charles Manson’s Life Span Psychology


Nature Versus Nurture

Men are certainly more likely to commit murders than women. It has been proven over the years by umpteen incidents that have taken place in the history of criminology. Manson was a cult leader and an American criminal. He has committed nine murders along with his fellow criminals. Charlie had no idea whose son he was. In fact, he never had a father figure ever in his life. His mother was least bothered about her children, and it has been reported that she would drop her children at their grandmother’s place or at their aunt’s home and would disappear for days or even weeks. This could also lead the entire topic to press on a very prominent and noticeable point of how the nurturing process can affect a man’s nature overall. Bad parenting or having no parents at all can affect a man’s life negatively. Having the guiding figures in one’s life can protect from having evil inclinations or plans. Charlie led a deprived life, and his criminal attitude was the only way for him to vent his frustration out (Altman, 2015). Many serial killers’ life span studies showed the same results. The majority of these killers faced parental neglect, had either bad parenting or spoiled childhood or an absolutely rough upbringing. Other stories showed that those who suffered from social anxiety and had a lack of confidence were also more inclined towards adopting criminal behavior. One’s biological makeup has also been responsible for such attitudes. Many men have been more reactive than women either because of the way they are treated in childhood, or they are born that way. Manson’s abnormalities and criminal behavior have also been said to be the result of a decrepit upbringing and flawed parenting. The psychological damage that had been done to him during the early stages of life resulted in a criminal attitude and evil nurturing of Manson in his later years of life. 

Charles Manson's Life Span Psychology

Cultural Diversity and Charles Manson

Charles Manson was a manipulator, even as a child. His brutal acts are still prevalent in the pages of history. The era of the 70s was the time when he committed the most serious crimes. During the 70s, amid the chaos of cultural diversity and the civil rights movement, Charles Manson utilized his charismatic personality to gain support and followers. He induced chaos in society using cultural variations and fluctuations as a prominent tool. Manson was, in fact, the one who introduced the idea of counter-culture. Manson was of the view that the world is lingering on the verge of an apocalypse, a war between the two races. He believed that blacks would dominate, but they will fail to maintain their dominance in the long run (Altman, 2015). Manson’s family took the norms of this particular period and included the elements of chaos and disaster into them. He made violence a reality. The Manson family fits the definition of Weird. Manson’s family added fuel to the rising fire between the two races, while the black and whites were already fighting each other day and night (Altman, 2015). Charles Manson started performing heinous crimes during the same time frame.

Concerning the focus of the case study, had these criminals been under investigation, the four major ethical obligations could not be ignored. The first is not to use any illegal means during the investigation. This is quite challenging as the tough criminals never break the silence until the illegal means are used. Secondly, the maintenance of personal conduct by the investigator is essential. This can prove to be advantageous as the criminals may not feel offended and try to be straight-forward during the investigation. The investigator must try to look for the truthful pieces of evidence rather than presenting subjective views. Moreover, such criminals must be heard by the ethical investigator to reach the root cause of criminal activities. He should not jump to conclusions right away. This may enhance his technical and professional skills. It will also add knowledge regarding the designs of dangerous criminals and potential reasons behind the heinous crimes that they commit.

Theories of Development Using Manson’s First Five Years of Life

There are several theories of development in psychology, such as psychosexual theory, behavioral theory, and cognitive theory of development, sociocultural theory, social learning theory, and attachment theory. A person’s phallic age occurs from year three to five. The phallic stage is essential in the development of a child. He adopts, unlearns, and learns many things during this age. In other words, the phallic stage is highly critical as it can cause several positive or negative imprints on the mind of the children depending upon the ambiance they observe. The children are highly dependent on others when they are between the ages of three to five. The social bonding theory explains that the bonds created by the children with their society highly affects their behavior and actions. Therefore, they tend to develop a strong bond with their caregivers and even tend to learn from them. This is a potential social relationship. When they are at preschool, they broaden their social circle adding more members to this bond and learning from them and their lifestyle. Charles Manson was born in November 1934, and his first five years of life had been the most disturbing and critical phase for him. These years determined his future and the actions he was to commit further.

The social learning theory also plays a part in the child’s overall development, usually at the tender age. Children try to adapt and learn behavior from their society and the people around them. The preschoolers are in the habit of exploring and questioning their world with a skeptic lens. But unfortunately, Manson had abnormal tendencies and weird behavior since the very beginning of his life, mainly because his learning process was affected by his bitter experiences in childhood. He was not like other children of his age, as remarked by his sister and cousin. The things which he did at the elementary school depicted his bloody tendencies and criminal nature even at an early age. A dark fascination surrounded his behavior.

He was completely weird, and his acts were a complete mystery. His social bindings and cognitive abilities were weak. In childhood, he began committing small crimes such as stealing from the stores or from his home (Altman, 2015). His mother sent him to a school that was for male delinquents and was run by Catholic priests. He ran back to his mother from the school; however, she sent him back. He spent the 1947 Christmas at McMechen. He was caught stealing a gun from his aunt and uncle’s house. Such unacceptable acts he performed in his childhood show the flaws in his upbringing and that the circumstances that were created by his parents affected his mind and life negatively.

At the middle childhood stage, usually, students are graded at the school for the volunteer work or for a certain set of skills that they develop. Manson had no interest in learning productive skills or being rewarded by society and appreciated by the peers. Rather he learned bad habits from the multiple boy schools where he was sent to. Moreover, once at a school, Manson was also sexually abused and beaten as a child. The punishment was an ordinary practice for him. He had no interest in games and sports as a child. Therefore he developed absolutely no feeling of achievement or competence at an early age. He had traumatic childhood experiences that led him to develop an inferiority complex. The absence of a father figure from his life introduced a feeling of inadequacies for him throughout his childhood and also affected his adult life. Finding no affection from any relation made him critical of himself during the early years of his life. Manson was unable to develop any verbal skills to express his emotions or explain his experiences. He was never loved by his mother and never received any encouragement and appreciation from her as a child. His mother was also imprisoned for illicit acts, and such incidents ruined the childhood phase of Manson. He began to internalize inferiorities. The psychoanalytical trauma was at its apex when Manson grew up with these inner lying inadequacies and inferiority complexes. His adult life was complete chaos for himself as well as for his society. He might have developed dissociative identity disorder, which is also known by its previous name multiple personality disorder (Grohol, 2013). In DID, the person fails to understand his personality and switches from one mode of action to another. This usually happens when children are rejected, mistreated, or rejected during the early years of life. The traumatic events haunt them for the rest of their lifespan.  

In her renowned work, The Neurotic Personality of our Time, Horney maintained that disturbed human relationships are the main cause of neurosis (Kanel, 2014). The basic elements of neurotic behavior are embedded in the relationship between children and parents. The basic evil for a child is a parent’s indifferent behavior and lack of security and protection for their children. The rejection and ignorance of the parents often lead the children into a den of hostility and anxiety that stays with them for the rest of their lives. This is evident from Charles Manson’s life because, as an adult, Manson repeated the acts which he observed or which he experienced himself as a child. For example, he raped a boy. He was also caught driving a stolen vehicle and was sent to a minimum-security institute. Later he was sent to the federal reformatory, but unfortunately, Manson was unable to enhance his behavior in any way. He committed several federal crimes. Once, he also forged a treasury check and was sent to 10 year-long sentences.  

According to Erik Eriksson’s psychological approach, the developmental crisis at the early stages of life leaves deep imprints on the children’s mind. Kanel (2014) maintained in the chapter Developmental Crisis that every baby needs unconditional love, attention, care, and nurturance from his parents at the early stage of his life. However, the lack of attention, the dispensation of negligence, humiliation, and ill attitude of the parents can put the entire life of the child at stake. Manson’s first five years of life were the most critical ones. He was unable to fetch any attention from his mother. Parenting education really matters during the first five years of life (Kanel, 2014). The child begins to develop bonds with his parents. Since Manson had no attachment with his parents, he fell into a notorious company and became a victim of social rejection. He also faced a crisis during the adolescent period. He tried to attain self-esteem and attention from his society either by hook or crook, mainly because he was deprived of these essential elements as a child. As an adult, he created a small group of followers; most of the followers were women. He had a chronic inability to tell the truth. He was a drunkard and abused people sexually. Moreover, Manson wore a mask of sanity and pretended that he had no role in the murders and killings that took place. Manson was also involved in drug dealing. He was hypersexual and exhibited abnormal sexual behavior at the prison. He raped a man in prison by placing a blade against his throat. Manson also prostituted girls. All these instances were a result of a developmental crisis.

Although the social bonding, identity theory, and the social learning theory have a role to play in the development and conditioning of a child’s behavior, however, Eriksson’s theory of stages of development are the ones most relevant to Manson’s life. Eriksson maintained that at every stage of life, the crisis occurring could leave a positive or negative impact on a person’s mind. These stages extend from infancy to adulthood.

Self and Personality

Trait Theory with Manson

 Manson’s personality allows certain theories to be applied to his life. The trait theory, for example, defines his upbringing and lifestyle quite well. Trait theory is a psychological approach, also known as the dispositional theory (Hergenhahn, B. & Olson, 1976). It deeply analyses and studies human nature and personality from different lenses. The trait theorists measure the traits of a person. The traits such as the behavioral patterns, the habits of a person, his thought process, and the role of his emotions on his actions. Traits are defined as characteristics of an individual that set him aside from other individuals and define his personality. Charles Manson’s personality was entirely different from the kids of his age group. Similarly, when he grew up, his actions, which were determined by his traits and upbringing, set him aside from other members of the same age group. He developed these chaotic traits of a murderer from a very tender age. The abuse and neglect that he faced from his family transformed him into a chaos-making person who felt relief in killing people and destroying peace.

Social Learning Theory and Manson’s life

Social learning theory, another psychological approach, asserts that the attitudes and behaviors are adopted or learned by staying in a certain environment and ambiances. Individuals can acquire or learn behaviors simply by imitating others around them. Sutherland, a criminologist, once wrote in his magnum opus that Crime is learned. One does not exhibit crime without learning it (Hergenhahn, B. & Olson, 1976). He observes others around him, doing something mysterious or chaotic and tries to imitate it. Charles Manson’s mother was a prostitute. She was a burglar and an alcoholic who even once sold her son to a waitress for a pitcher of beer. Manson learned theft and crimes early from his childhood. He normalized these acts by committing them over and over again. It was a social practice for him as he observed it around him all the time. All his actions were a result of social learning, mainly from his mother and the operant conditioning. Learning is a cognitive process, not entirely a behavioral one. Manson’s cognitive approach instigated him to commit the heinous criminal acts that would pacify his childhood deprivations. Environment, cognition, and behavior all these elements altogether played a role in determining Manson’s life and actions. Manson has an aggressively anti-social personality. He deviated from the stereotypical norms and categorized himself as a violent member of society who was all set to take revenge on his childhood lacking from the cunning society.

Identity Theory and Manson’s life

Every individual has a place in the society which he is assigned, or he develops by his actions. There are three primary concepts that are central to the identity theory; they are as follows: the concept of social comparison, social categorization, and the concept of social identification. Individuals often perceive themselves and others around them in social categories. They perceive each other as interchangeable group members of a society as unique and separate individuals. In other words, the social identity theory is mainly an interplay that takes place between the personal and social identities of an individual (Hergenhahn, B. & Olson, 1976). Manson thought himself to be an individual as well as a member of a certain social category. His personal traits, mingled with his social circumstances, determined his chaotic actions in society. He observed the group behaviors around him and dedicated himself to a similar category. With the help of his group memberships, he was able to induce meanings in his social behavior and situations. These group membership helped Manson to define his identity and personality as well as he was able to define his lifestyle in relation to other members of the society (Kanel, 2014). His behavioral motivation was encouraged by his mother’s attitude towards him and the lack of attention that he received as a child. The focus of this theory is also on the intergroup conflict or intergroup relations. Therefore, this theory was also known as the social identity theory of intergroup relations. Manson’s actions were a result of social influence and his underlying perception of self.

Erikson’s View and Manson’s Psychological Development

Eriksson’s theory of developmental and evolutionary crisis is accepted and approved by many scientists of the modern era. It is a universally accepted idea. During the early stages of life, people are more vulnerable to developing a crisis than at later stages. Role development of a person does not take place in a vacuum (Kanel, 2014). If one person’s role in a family undergoes a transition, the other person’s role automatically changes instantly. Especially if a parent changes the role or attitude towards the child, the child begins to develop a psychological crisis that upset his whole life. According to Eriksson’s psychological approach, every child longs for competency. If he suffers from an inferiority complex at any part of his childhood, he is unable to become a successful member of his society. Moreover, he can never contribute positively in any way in the betterment of society. Manson failed to become a praiseworthy individual of the mainstream society, mainly due to the inferiorities that entwined his childhood and his upbringing process since the early years of his life. Almost in all the cultures, middle childhood is considered to be the phase when a child adopts or develops a certain set of skills. These skills can, later on, be a positive contribution from his side to his society and the people. Manson’s middle childhood crisis led him to develop criminal attitudes that turned his personality into a completely decrepit state. At this age, children are graded at the school for their performance and skills. Manson fled from the boarding school several times only to reach and meet his mother, who was least concerned about his existence. She would indulge in her own ways of merry-making, ignoring the child and his demands. Manson gained no interest in becoming a healthy individual of his society; rather, he had no desire to achieve a feeling of competence. He grew up to become a murderer. Inflicting death was not a horrifying act for him as he had been through psychological perils throughout his life.

Cognition and Language

There are certain approaches in psychology that can help understand the cognitive process of people like Manson. Piaget’s constructive approach asserted that people usually form meanings and produce knowledge depending upon their subjective experiences. They tend to assimilate their new experiences into the old ones. Similarly, Dr. Fischer worked on the developmental theory and was of the view that learning is affected by the contextual as well as the interpersonal factors. Human’s entire cognitive range should be observed, not only their cognition during the peak potential. The cognition, said Fischer, is dynamic in nature. It is not static. On the other hand, Vygotsky claimed that children mix and match similarities and differences. They identify themselves from other mainly on the basis of differences as the differences stand out more than similarities. However, the cognitive process of Manson can be highly related to Piaget’s approach. Manson might have analyzed similarities and differences he had developed in comparison to others, yet most of his actions were based on his subjective experiences from the past. All his actions in the future were a result of his suppressed emotions as a youngster and his decrepit childhood. His thought process was therefore influenced by the humiliation and rejection that he faced in his past.

Death and Dying

Manson stabbed Leno and Rosemary LaBianca to death just the night after stabbing Sharon Tate and her friends. However, these were the forgotten victims and are not discussed much when studying Manson. Had the LaBianca family survived, the symptoms of bereavement and the circumstances had been different for all. For their parents (in their 70s), the symptoms of bereavement could be expected in the form of illness and depression. They might have gone into a shock and even need the assistance of a physician in order to cope with the bereavement. They, however, might not have shown any signs of harming themselves or self-neglect as the psychoanalytical studies suggest. Their grief might have become complicated, prolonged, and painful. They might set themselves on anti-depressants. In some cases, elderly people develop poor eye contact after suffering a loss. Some elderly people even develop emotional reactions and anxiety during bereavement; however, the symptoms are different for various people.

 As for the eight-year-old girl, it would have certainly been more difficult to deal with the grief. The bereavement symptoms for the children of this age can be low spirits and morale. The girl might lose interest in everything. She might stop further learning and fail to attain academic success. Bereavement at this young age can be extremely risky for the children. She might develop risk-taking behavior and start complaining more about physical pains. Moreover, she might start offending more people and become least concerned about it. An 8-year-old might fail to communicate effectively during the bereavement phase, and this suppression of emotions can lead them to disturbed adulthood.

Death is a bitter reality, and at any age, it can be disturbing for the family members of a dead person. The way of expression can be different for different people. Usually, at the age of 16, a bereaved boy can develop anger issues. Everything might seem inadequate to him. He might develop a cognitive crisis and offensive behavior. In some cases, boys tend to react in a cruel way and harm others for their catharsis. Young boys mostly can feel abandoned, shocked and some even panic at the death of a loved one. Feeling of numbness or guilt is also common for a 16-year-old boy who is under stress or is grieving. Many young boys struggle to cope with grief and can develop lifelong depression. The only way to cope with these situations is communication or sharing one’s emotions to feel pacified. But in some cases, people are introverted and never like to talk about grief.

  • Altman, R. (2015). Sympathy for the Devil: Charles Manson’s Exploitation of California’s 1960s Counter-Culture. Scholar.colorado.edu. Retrieved 2 October 2020, from https://scholar.colorado.edu/downloads/g158bh82g.
  • Grohol, P. (2013). DSM-5 Changes: Dissociative Disorders. Psych Central Professional. Retrieved 2 October 2020, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/dsm-5- changes-dissociative-disorders/.
  • Hergenhahn, B., & Olson, M. (1976). (PDF) An Introduction to Theories of Learning.
  • ResearchGate. Retrieved 2 October 2020, from             https://www.researchgate.net/publication/36824098_An_Introduction_to_Theories_of_L earning.
  • Kanel, K. (2014). A Guide to Crisis Intervention. Third edition. Retrieved 2 October 2020, from             https://books.google.com.pk/books/about/A_Guide_to_Crisis_Intervention.html?id=oVM          8AwAAQBAJ&redir_esc=y.

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