About John Wayne Gacy

The words psychopathy and sociopathy are frequently used interchangeably by forensic psychologists, criminologists, and psychiatrists. Although leading experts disagree on whether there are significant differences between the two conditions, this research contends that there are distinct differences. Sociopaths are prone to emotional outbursts, volatile behavior, and short tempers. They also tend to be easily agitated and apprehensive. Due to their inability to develop long-lasting relationships with others, sociopaths are more likely to have lower levels of education and live alone. (Pemment 45). Other people in the community tend to view sociopaths as being very disturbed. Any crimes committed by these people are usually disorganized, haphazard, and spontaneous, but not planned.

On the contrary, psychopaths do not form emotive affections or experience compassion with other people; however, they are often charming to their counterparts. They tend to be controlling and can easily earn the trust of other people within the society that they live. Psychopaths mimic emotions regardless of their inability to feel them, and in this way, they appear to be normal in the eyes of the unsuspecting people (Pemment 46). These individuals unlike sociopaths, are likely to be highly accomplished and have steady and lucrative jobs. Some of them have mastered the art of mimicry and manipulation to the extent that they have kinfolks and other long-lasting relationship without the people surrounding them doubting their real nature. When they commit criminalities, psychopaths prudently plot out each detail in time and could have an emergency backup plan in place (Pemment 46). In this way, their criminal activities, whether violent or not, are often highly systematic and in totality offer few or no clues for the authorities to follow. In this study, the main argument is that Gacy was a psychopath and a criminal.

Background Information

John Gacy was born in the year 1942 in Chicago, Illinois. His father was abusive to him, while the mother could use razor strap to discipline him together with his siblings. One his sisters said that John never cried when the father could abuse him in her memoirs (Miller 3). As a student, John experienced more discouragement as his classmates ostracized him for not being in a position to play because of a congenital heart condition. On top of abusing him, John’s father resented the son due to this hear condition, viewing him as a total failure in the family. In his early adulthood, John knew that he was attracted to men this brought immense psychological pressure on him (Miller 5). However, he could manage to cope with the situation and continue with his daily activities with much normalcy. As a young adult, he was outgoing and sociable; he got married, became a father and turned out to be a prosperous building contractor. John was well-known and respected within the suburban Chicago society where he was actively involved in local politics.

By the year 1968, John would be serving ten years in prison for assault of two people, and by the year 1970, he assaulted another person but escaped imprisonment. He raped two boys in the mid 70’s and between them, one was his first murder victim. By the year 1978, John would proceed on to kill 33 boys and young men, burying some of them under his house (Miller 6). John’s victims were invited into his home address using force pretense in a bid to lure them into the trap. After abusing and killing them, he could bury their corpses under his house in such a manner that the security officers could not trace his criminal behavior. It is a show of a well-planned scheme, matching the traits of psychopathic individuals. In essence, John Wayne Gacy was a psychopath in the manner in which he executed the well-planned and organized crime. This count of events shows that John committed acts of inhumanity that can be considered as infringing on the human rights of other individuals (Miller 9). In law, engaging someone in sexual activities against their consent and murdering other people are acts that are deemed unlawful and of criminal behavior. Having briefly looked into the early childhood and adulthood of John as well as the criminal activities that he propagated; the paper proceeds to consider the criminology theories that portray John as an offender of the law.

Criminology Theories

The scientific research regarding the causes of crime and delinquency in the past has been guided by theory. A theory which holds waters is deemed to offer a foundational lens that facilitates the comprehension and interpretation of the manifestation of behavior in an individual or a group of people. In criminology, the theoretical lens is mainly guided by the conception relevant to the fields of biology, psychology, sociology, and the behavior that violates the law of the society. In this sense, the theories applied in this paper to look into John’s criminal records are based on these four factors.

Cultural Deviance Theory

Social separation and discrimination among people especially in the lower class areas cause some individuals to develop their subcultures which are not in tandem with the societal rules (Akers 7). For example, young children emulate their parents; in a situation where the father is a drunkard who tags along with other lower class alcoholics who believe that it is normal for them to be abusive to their families. Through this association, the younger generations are likely to view this criminal behavior as normal and proceed with it to adulthood. In this case, John’s parents were abusive to him and his siblings to such an extent that it reached a point where he did not feel the awful impacts of the torture. The treatment became normal to him, and in this spirit, he continued to abuse other people in his adulthood despite being a smart and respected business person.

In this theory, individuals are not responsible for their deviancy as much as is the society within which they live. People are affected by the place, other persons, and the social framework of their communities (Taylor, Ian, Walton and Young 24). With the immediate family being the base unit of the society, people are highly impacted by the events that unfold within this institution. On top of the family, there is the larger society which includes other people, organizations, and the federal administration. John comes in touch with the society in school where he has to deal with ridicule and criticism from his peers due to his heart condition. Since he was a child, it must have been a traumatizing experience as he could not comprehend why other kids could not interact with him freely. Growing up into early adulthood, John is attracted to men in a society that is highly critical of homosexuality. Once again, he faces separation and discrimination because of he is the minority group which is attracted to the same gender. This continued feeling of discrimination brings the concept of cultural deviance, and as a result, he goes out of the norms of the society and engages in rape, which is against the law.

Biological Theories of Crime

The theory tries to explain behaviors that are contrary to the societal expectations through the scrutiny of individuals’ traits. The biological theories of criminology are classified with the positivism paradigm which states that behaviors, including those violating the law, are established by factors that are beyond a person’s control. The positivist theories are categorized on the grounds of external influences identified as potentially influential of the individual behavior (Akers 7). The biological arguments regarding crime try to differential people on the grounds of their distinctive characters. Also, the theories trace the source of either hereditary or genetic trait and distinguish among people on the grounds of chemical, functional, and structural differences in the body or brain.

With respect to the biological explanations regarding crime, John Gacy’s case comes in through his sexual orientation. He is different from a majority of the members of the society who are attracted to the opposite gender, while he is appealed by the fellow men. It is a biologically different situation for him which is beyond his inner control. If he was attracted to members of the opposite sex, maybe he could not engage in the rape criminal activities as the society could readily accept him. The biological differences between him and the rest of the society drove him into forcing young men to engage in sexual activities. Also, John has hereditary issues that he picked from his parents; the aspect of abuse that he administers upon his victims can be traced back from his father’s conduct. The fact that the father could abuse him despite his frail condition is related to the heartless state with which John treated his victims.

Psychological Theories of Crime

Individuals’ psychology comes with differences in thinking among the people. The theories look into the manner in which mental process affect a person’s propensity to crime. In their arguments, psychologists cite intelligence, learning, aggressive behavior, and personality within the individuals in relation to their probability of engaging in criminal activities (Wortley, Richard and Townsley 63). Gacy was physically and mentally abused by the father in his childhood stage. As a result, he develops a psychopathic sign of internal/external impulsivity that is evident in his criminal behavior. The anger that he harbored for his father was utilized psychologically and physically advanced to the susceptible young boys. The hatred that John had for his father was the justification for his unfortunate acts of rape and murder. As a kid, John was powerless, and so he was submissive to the father’s abusive and powerful authority over him. In return, he overpowered and killed his victims, and this somewhat accorded him a sense of equality with his father.

Behavioral Theories

All human conduct is acquired through contact with the surrounding public setting. Individuals are not born with aggressive and criminal dispositions. Instead, they acquire the ideas of thinking and acting viciously because of their daily experiences. The experiences include observing peers, family, and the media. Research shows that violent children often follow the aggressive behavior of their parents (Moreira 194). Individuals who dwell in vehement societies learn to emulate the behaviors of their neighbors and associates. The close social environment in which John resided was characterized by physical oppression and psychological torture which later shaped his behavior in a similar manner.

According to theorists, a stressful stimulus is likely to lead a person into engaging in violence or other forms of crime. John struggled with the fact that he was attracted to men, a fact that stressed him because it was against social acceptance and his religious beliefs and so he practiced homosexuality away from the family and his associates. It is only his victims that saw that second side of him. John’s criminal behavior was instigated by the fact that he was stressed about his social status in the society. The larger community could not embrace him with the homosexuality traits, and hence he isolated himself and conducted the heinous acts in private.


Both the psychopaths and sociopaths have social issues; the difference is that sociopaths appear to be rejected by the society, but the psychopaths perfectly fit within the society. John was a psychopath because he fitted into society as a family man and business person of great repute. In the childhood stage, John was subjected to abuse that was done on him by his father and this resulted in psychological torture in the young boy. On top of abuse at home, John was rejected by his peers in school, and this further deteriorated his already suppressed self-esteem. John resorted to seclusion from the ideal society and developed his subculture that saw him abuse and murder other people. The biological, psychological, cultural, and behavioral theories explain the manner in which John engaged in crime, mainly because of the environment in which he grew up. John Wayne Gacy was a psychopath, a criminal and a person who was deviant to the norms and values of a well-functioning society.

Works Cited

Akers, Ronald L. Criminological theories: Introduction and evaluation. Routledge, (2013): 7-12

Miller, Laurence. "Serial killers: I. Subtypes, patterns, and motives." Aggression and violent behavior 19.1 (2014): 1-11.

Moreira, Diana, et al. "Psychopathy: A comprehensive review of its assessment and intervention." Aggression and violent Behavior 19.3 (2014): 191-195.

Pemment, Jack. "Psychopathy versus sociopathy: Why the distinction has become crucial." Aggression and Violent Behavior 18.5 (2013): 45-46.

Taylor, Ian, Paul Walton, and Jock Young. The new criminology: For a social theory of deviance. Routledge, (2013): pp.24

Wortley, Richard K., and Michael Townsley, eds. Environmental criminology and crime analysis. Vol. 18. Taylor & Francis, (2016)): pp63

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