Term Paper: Lifespan Development and Personality

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Lifespan Development and Personality: John Wayne Gacy

One of the most perplexing questions is why seemingly normal people like John Wayne Gacy choose to kill? On the surface, Gacy was a professional living a reasonably well-integrated life, with ties to his community and friends. "People who knew Gacy thought of him as a generous, friendly and hard-working man, devoted to his family and community...[yet] During a three-year-period, Gacy went on to viciously torture, rape and murder more than thirty other young men, who would later be discovered under the floorboards of his home and in the local river." ("John Wayne Gacy: Crime Library," 2006,


One possible physical explanation for Gacy's behavior might be found in his physical development as a young man. When Gacy was eleven years old he received a trauma to the head that caused a blood clot in his brain. This was only discovered when he was sixteen. From the period of his life from eleven to sixteen, Gacy experienced frequent blackouts, which could have interfered with normal mental development. He also was diagnosed with a heart condition at age seventeen. ("John Wayne Gacy: Crime Library," 2006, p.2) Gacy's heart condition was exacerbated after he gained weight during his adult career as a salesman. "Weight, heart and back problems would plague Gacy for the rest of his life." ("John Wayne Gacy: Crime Library," 2006, p.3)


Although he did not excel in school as a young man, Gacy was noted to be a quick study of people. He learned the sales trade quickly, as well as management skills during his early professional career, and quickly rose through the ranks.


Gacy struggled during his early schooling school. He never graduated high school, after switching secondary schools four times. He worked as a janitor for several months in Las Vegas. ("John Wayne Gacy: Crime Library," 2006, p.3) However, after returning home, Gacy seemed to recover from this period of adolescent idling and enrolled in a business college. After he graduated, Gacy seemed to find his calling. Gacy was "hired at his first job out of business school at the Nunn-Bush Shoe Company. He excelled in his position as a management trainee." ("John Wayne Gacy, Crime Library:" 2006, p.3)


Gacy's father was a physically abusive alcoholic. Gacy's father abused the boy, and as a child Gacy witnessed his mother and siblings being abused by his father, while he was powerless to help them. Despite this fact, "young Gacy deeply loved his father and wanted desperately to gain his devotion and attention. Unfortunately, he was never able to get very close to his father before he died, something which he regretted his entire life." ("John Wayne Gacy: Crime Library," 2006, p.2)

Heritable factors in terms of his father's genetic propensity towards violence may have played an influence in Gacy's own, similar tendency towards violence. However, it cannot be denied that the young Gacy grew up in an abusive environment and his father's parenting practices did not foster childhood healthy development. Community social support systems such as his involvement in the Boy Scouts may have offered some stability.


Even during his early childhood as an abused young man, Gacy seemed like a people-pleaser. He was active in the Boy Scouts and other organizations that provided a sense of community and family that he lacked at home. Later, as a salesman in Springfield, Illinois, he was the membership chairman of the Chi Rho Club, a board member of the Catholic Inter-Club Council, a commanding captain for the Federal Civil Defense for Illinois, a captain in the Chicago Civil Defense, an officer in the Holy Name Society and a… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Lifespan Development and Personality.  (2006, October 29).  Retrieved December 10, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/lifespan-development-personality/6274294

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