Case Study On Abnormal Psychology: Charles Manson

Published: 2021-06-18 05:50:38
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Charles Manson was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on November 12, 1934 to Kathleen Maddox, a sixteen-year-old prostitute (Atchison & Kathleen, 2011). This paper aims at analyzing America’s “most dangerous man.” In doing so, the paper will examine his history, actions, psychology, and personality. There are also conclusions regarding preventative treatments and therapies made based on Manson’s story and knowledge of other psychological disorders.
Charles Manson spent his childhood under the care of different people, including his uncle, aunt, caretaker, or grandmother away from his un-wanting mother. His mother, Kathleen Maddox was drunken trouble-maker and irresponsible. She once sold Charles to a waiter for a pitcher of beer. His uncle was sent to retrieve him days later following a tip-off. During this period, his mother was in and out of jail. By the age of 26, Charles Manson had been charged with drug charges, stealing, pimping, among other vices (Atchison & Kathleen, 2011). Charles had a group of people who respected him and followed him as they thought he was a “great being.” These people desperately wanted something to believe in, and they found it from him. Together, they formed the Manson Family and committed nine murders in a very short period. The people they killed, include Mr. and Mrs. La Bianca, a rich couple who owned a chain of supermarkets and Sharon Tate, and six houseguests that were visiting (Barry, 2013).
Charles Manson had a personality disorder considering his actions and behavior. To start with, he was a musician, group leader, and a serial killer. According Alvin Karpis, a gang leader whom he met in jail, Manson had something unmistakably unusual with him. The gang leader who also taught Manson music adds, “He was a runt of sorts, but found his place as an experienced manipulator of other” (Barry, 2013). Manson was cruel, manipulative, paranoid, exaggerative, and self-centered. The personality of Manson reflects the mental disorder he presents with, which are antisocial personality disorder, paranoia, and narcissistic personality disorder.
Background history
Charles Manson remains one of the most ruthless and evil criminals of all times. Manson together with his “Family” of followers killed innocent people in an attempt to start a cult in the United States. Manson’s childhood, personality, and uncanny ability influence people led to the creation of a family-like cult that led to bloody serial murders of nine innocent people. Manson was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on November 11, 1934 to a teenage prostitute, Kathleen Maddox (Myers, 1999). His father left the still pregnant Maddox never to appear again.
Manson only lived with his mother until the age of five before she was arrested for armed robbery. Since his mother could not take care of him, Manson spent his life at the homes of various relatives, reform homes, and boys’ homes. By the age of nine, he had started stealing and burglary. Some of the relatives he lived with included a religious aunt and a sadistic uncle who abused him, and make him wear girl’s dress on the first day to school. He committed several burglaries and found himself in a famous Boys Town in Nebraska. After finding himself in prison several times, he was released on parole after unusual bout of good behavior. He later married Rosalie Willis, a waiter, whom they soon had a son together. He continued stealing cars even while married. After her husband had spent a year in prison, Manson's wife divorced him and got engaged with a different man in June 1957.
After being released from prison, with a guitar and drugs, he began to form a following that strongly rallied behind him. He later moved with his followers to Spahn Ranch, locate northwest of San Fernando valley. Manson was an excellent manipulator of people, using pieces from various religions to form his own philosophy. He had also studied philosophy while in prison. At some point, young people across the United States were rebelling against conservative values and norms by growing long hair, demanding rights for women, minorities, homosexuals, and rejecting traditional dating graces. In November 1968, the Beatles released the White Album containing the song “Helter Skelter” (Myers, 1999) Manson believed that I time would come when Blacks would rise and slaughter the white people.
Manson later ordered for the murder by sending four of his followers to kill people inside their residential home. This house belonged to Terry Melcher, the man who had not helped him with his music career. Four of Manson’s followers brutally killed Tete, her unborn baby, and four other visitors. The following day, Manson’s followers killed Rosemary LaBianca and Leno in their home. The police did not determine the perpetrators after several months. Manson and several of his followers were arrested, and Mason was found of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. He was sentenced to death on March 29, 1971 (Atchison & Kathleen, 2011).
Factors Contributing to Mental Illness
Charles Manson was not any normal person. He did not experience a happy childhood, even in his teenage years. He spent most of his life in prison facing hardships. Various schools of thought can help explain mental breakdown in Manson. Psychologists argue that Manson was always under the influence of drugs. He listened much to the Beatles White Album and liked the song Helter Skelter (Barry, 2013). He believed that the album talked about a race riot, and by committing murders, he thought that the race riot would start.
Sociologists, on the other hand, maintain that Manson had strong organization skills. He had numerous followers known as the “Family.” The members of the family believed he was “a greater being.” These people were desperate and only wanted something in which they could believe. Manson took advantage of them, brainwashed them, and convinced them to kill without questioning.
Anthropologists maintain that Manson spent most of his childhood with his aunt, who was exceptionally religious, and a sadistic uncle who made him go to school in girls' dress. They taught him religious beliefs and the importance of “higher power.” This could have possibly influenced Manson to nature an obsession with being a god or leader of followers.
Cognitive development: Piaget theory
Manson came from a very unstable family as he was born to a sixteen-year-old mother who was a criminal and a drunk (Geis & Huston, 1971). This may have influenced Manson negatively when he was young. At a younger age, his mother his mother went to jail and this resulted to spending his lifetime in many homes. This could have resulted to lack of cognitive development because he was not nurtured properly at a tender age.
Freud’s Psychosexual Theory
This theory explains how sexual behavior and personality mature through a series of stages. Manson claimed that he had been repeatedly raped at the boys’ school. Had it been true that he was raped, he would not have overcome this stage because of the trauma.
Diagnosis (DSM-IV)
Essential features
- Having delusions and hearing things that do not exist or not real
Associated features
- Suicidal behavior
- Victims have histories of difficult relationships
Differential diagnosis
Appear distrustful, apprehensive, and cautious and reserved instead of other forms of schizophrenia that come with disorganized speech and behavior
Diagnostic criteria
- Frequent auditory hallucinations
- A preoccupation with one or more delusions
- Test that may be performed include CBC test, physical examination, and thyroid examination.
While considering Axes I, II, III, and IV, Mason falls in Axis IV. He experienced difficult childhood, which impacted his stress level and prepared him for difficult situations throughout his entire life (Getzfeld, 2004). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) would label Manson as having anti-social personality disorder.
Currently, there is no widely accepted treatment for sociopathic personality types. They tend to manipulate and lie to therapists during treatment, and have little insight into their behavior and cover up personal faults. They also tend to show short-term passion during treatment, particularly after committing a serious crime, however, once they relieve this anxiety, they frequently drop out of treatment and slide back into sociopathic patterns (Getzfeld, 2004). This disorder does not just refer to criminality, but describes long-term pervasive disorder that is resistant to treatment.
Manson dropped out of school at third grade when he was only nine-years-old, and he spent many years in boy reformatories. Nevertheless, he has never used this time to obtain a GED, which is an alternative for high school diploma. He does not feel guilty or discomfort for the murders he committed. Manson is still in prison serving death sentence.

Atchison, A.J. & Kathleen, M.H. (2011). Charles Manson and the Family: The application of sociological theories to multiple murder. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 55 (5), 771-798.
Getzfeld, A.R. (2004). Abnormal psychology casebook: a new perspective. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Barry, P.B. (2013). Evil and moral psychology. London: Routledge.
Geis, G. G., & Huston, T. L. (1971). Charles Manson and his girls: notes on a Durkheimian theme. Criminology, 9342.
Myers, T. (1999). Rerunning the Creepy-Crawl: Ed Sanders and Charles Manson. Review Of Contemporary Fiction, 19(1), 81.
Cyriax, O. (2009). Manson, Charles Milles (1934-). Encyclopedia Of Crime, 285-286.

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