The early childhood of a serial killer is commonly thought to be fraught with images of an unstable home, trouble with the law, deranged thoughts and feelings about people around that person, and developmental issues. Charles Milles Manson was no exception to this schema. Manson was one of the most disturbed children I have ever read about. Thirty-seven of his fifty-one years of life have been spent in reformatories, foster homes or prisons (Emmons, 1994). The child known as Manson was doomed from the very start of his life and would later become known as “the most dangerous man alive”.
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Charles Manson was born, illegitimately to Kathleen Maddox in Cincinnati, Ohio (Emmons, 1994). His mother was known as promiscuous and a person who drank and got in trouble often (Emmons, 1994). Manson says that his mother must be considered a whore because she is the mother of Charles Manson. Kathleen ran away from home at the age of fifteen due to her overbearing, fanatically religious parents. After his mother ran away from home, she exploded into newfound freedom; drinking a lot, loving freely, and answering to no one (Emmons, 1994). This is when Manson was conceived.
The “man who planted the seed” called himself Colonel Scott and was gone before his child was born. The name Manson came for a man who Kathleen was involved with after Charles was born. Eventually they got married and separated. It was only Kathleen and her son left on the street to survive. Having one mouth to feed was tough, but adding another starving human to the mix is enough to make a woman do things she would not normally do. A waitress at a café once offered to buy the infant Manson from her. Kathleen replied, “A pitcher of beer and he’s yours.” The waitress set up the beer; his mother hung around long enough to finish it off, and left the diner without him (Emmons, 1994).
Charles was bounced back and forth between relatives that were no good to sitters that would eventually be burden with him. His childhood was never smooth with the relatives. One uncle that Manson was pawned off on was convinced that Manson was too feminine and suggested that he started to act like a man or else he was going to start dressing him in girls’ clothing. Manson says that for the first day of school, his Uncle Bill dressed him in little girls clothing and he was humiliated (Emmons, 1994). This sparked his latent rage and he began to fight everyone who made fun of him.
In his early adolescent years, Manson remembers one Christmas where all he received was a Superman brush. The children of the neighborhood teased him and made fun of him for it. So, to get even, he took all their possessions and gathered them at his home. He stacked up some wood and threw the toys on top and started a fire (Emmons, 1994).
After the fire, Charlie was in and out of reformatories. He would often escape only to be picked up later for getting into trouble or for bumping into the wrong person. This eventually led to prison. He also had the same pattern with being sentenced and released. The details of Charlie’s adulthood will not be discussed in this paper as this paper is focusing on his childhood. However it is vital to note that Charlie is currently serving a life sentence for the formation and involvement in the “Manson Family” which murdered several people.
Analysis of Charles Manson
I believe an appropriate way to view Charles Manson’s adolescence would be to examine the theory of attachment. The day his mother got out of prison was the happiest day of his life (Emmons, 1994). However, this joy was short lived (just like all the joy Manson ever experienced). His mother got involved with a man that did not like the idea that Kathleen had a child. The man only wanted Kathleen in his life so that is what he got. She pleaded to the court that she could not properly care for him and Manson was placed in an all boy’s school. Manson was heartbroken and says in Emmons’ book, “lonelier than I ever was in my entire life. I just wanted to live with her under any circumstances.”
This passage shows that Charles Manson was capable of loving but he never seemed to have the love reciprocated by his mother. This led to an insecure-preoccupied style of attachment. In this style, the person longs to have a relationship, but do not because they feel they are not worthy of one (McMahn, 2009). Also, Charles Manson had indifferent parents when he was growing up. These types of parents hardly spend any time and energy on their children and this often leads to rejection (McMahn, 2009). In Manson’s case, the repercussions of his mother’s parenting style reverberated throughout his entire life. Our textbook states that adolescents form indifferent parents have the hardest time and are more likely to engage in delinquency, drug use, and early sexual activity (McMahn, 2009). Manson was a triple threat adolescent and engaged in all three at an early age.
Manson’s delinquency rendered him vulnerable to a select group of people with which to grow up. Sullivan’s perspective on intimacy in which the child seeks to escape loneliness and gain a sense of well-being by developing a “chum” or friend (McMahn, 2009) proved terrible in the case of Charles Millis Manson. Although he did find a chum while locked up, those types of friends are in containment for a reason that is deemed inappropriate by society. These are not the people with which to build strong bonds. His “friends” only exacerbated his delinquency and altered his mind (for the worst) psychologically. His traumatic experiences and events he witnessed (e.g. rape, misconduct, unjust consequences, and maltreatment) through his peers and the adults in charge of the facility only proved the erroneous ideas that plagued Manson.
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Manson states in the book by Emmons that “at an age where most kids are going to nice schools, living with their parents and learning all about the better things in life, I was cleaning silage and tobacco juice out of my ass, recuperating from the wounds of a leather strap and learning to hate the world and everyone in it.” This passage shows that Manson knows what a “normal” life should have been like for him. I believe that it also has an element of contempt for the children that were fortunate enough to have this life. Furthermore, I believe it shows that Manson had a sense of desire for love and affection at a young age. Never having the opportunity to witness these things directly as a child influenced his social learning.
Albert Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory says that personal factors, such as thoughts, feelings and desires, interact with learned behavior patterns and social influences to produce tendencies to act in a particular way (McMahn, 2009). Charles Manson had every opportunity to observe what not to do in social situations and very few chances to observe socially acceptable interactions.
Charles Manson saw that in order to survive on the streets, in reformatories, and in juvenile detentions you had to think fast and act faster if you want to survive. He also learned to punish people who disobey and to use violence to get what you were after. Developing this idea about life and how to treat people, it becomes clearer why he started the Manson Family and had other people carry out his plans of murder.
Self-esteem issues plagued Manson over his adolescent years. In Emmons book, Charles Manson is portrayed as living in a constant flux of self-esteem. When he escaped from a correctional institution he had a feeling of invincibility and that he out-witted the officers. Then, when he became incarcerated not long after his escape, he was right back to that sense of worthlessness and being a part of nothing. This could have led to his tendency to become the leader of a murderous cult. Recent reports find strong connections between low self-esteem and problems such as aggression and antisocial behavior (McMahn, 2009). Charles Manson fits this schema exactly. In Emmons book, Charles Manson agrees that he has an “anti-social behavior”.
Also in the book by Emmons, Charles mentions that he had a problem with bed wetting as a child. Nocturnal Enuresis is repeated voiding of urine into bed or clothes (Association, 2000). Research has indicated that following a trauma (e.g., sexual abuse), children often display regressive behaviors, such as enuresis (Faust, 1997). Since Charles Manson admits that he was molested by his peers in the reform schools, this type of disorder seems to make sense. If bedwetting was not enough, Emmons says that Manson was repeatedly checked by guards to see if he was being raped.
When the guards first found out that he was not, they did what they could to change that situation. An episode in the book explains that during a check, the guard would take silage off the ground and tobacco out of his mouth and use that to “lube up” Charles Manson. After doing this, the guard would encourage the young men in the reform school to rape Manson. This, undoubtedly, was an extremely traumatic experience for Manson, not to mention he was receiving a message from the guards that told him he was not going to be protected by them. This was hardly an acceptable environment for any person to grow up and Manson’s actions on society were absolutely horrifying, but it makes you wonder if they were justified in his mind.
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