Running head: Charles Manson And The Family

On November 12, 1934 in Cincinnati, Ohio, 16 year old Kathleen Maddox gave birth to a little boy named Charles Miles Manson who later grew up to become one of the most notorious and famous murders of all time. Manson grew up in a very dysfunctional environment. His mother was an alcoholic as well as a prostitute. Charles Manson did not know his father and never had a father figure growing up. After his mother’s failed marriage to William Manson, Charles was sent to boarding school for boys.

  Since his mother was not willing or able to care for him, she decided to send him off to a boarding school for boys. By the age of nine Charles had already started committing small crimes like stealing, burglary and stealing cars. It didn’t take him long to start committing federal offenses that resulted in harsher punishments.

Charles Manson spent a few years in prison for the crimes that he had committed. According to Biography.

com, in 1955 Charles Manson got married and had a child but having a family didn’t stop him from committing crimes. He started stealing again and found himself back in prison. His wife left him for another man. Charles Manson had always suffered from rejection from his father, mother and now his wife. This further evolved his psychological instability and emotional trauma. Manson can be described as person who is constantly striving for status and trying to obtain a personal connection with someone who made him feel loved and wanted.

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His mother never loved him and abandon him, his wife left him and he never knew who his father was, that feeling of being unwanted contributed to his emotional instability. This left Manson with the same feeling of loneliness he had always felt. All the wives he had divorced him every time he was sent to prison.

According to Douglas & Olshaker, 1995 Charles Manson was obsessed with having and maintaining power. It is believed that Manson saw the murders as a way to maintain control over his followers. By having and maintaining control over his followers, Charles felt the love and admiration he never had in the past. “Manson’s goal in engineering these murders was to start a race war. “The central doctrine of Charlie’s new teaching was Helter Skelter—Armageddon, the Last War on the Face of the Earth, the ultimate battle between Blacks and Whites in which the entire white race would be annihilated”. After getting out of prison in 1967, Charles Manson moved to San Francisco to pursue his music Career. According to Watson & Hoekstra (1978) “after listening to The Beatles White Album, Manson began to see predictions encoded throughout the lyrics and saw parallels to the ideas he had about growing racial tension between Blacks and Whites. He later took the Beatles’ lyrics and told his followers that the band was trying to push Blacks into rebelling violently against Whites.”

He became attached to the song “Helter Skelter”. The song’s message was interpreted by Charles as warning of what was to come. Charles Manson believed in the idea that Blacks were going to overpower the Whites. In his mind he saw a war coming and this war as unavoidable. He wanted to bring about the race war revolt upon himself and end it. The Manson family Members believed that the Helter Skelter was coming down fast, and they were getting ready for it. According to Bugloss & Gentry (1974), “Manson believed the African American race would triumph over all others, and later transfer their power to the surviving White people because they could not handle restarting civilization. In Manson’s mind, his Family, and mostly him would be the ultimate beneficiaries of the black & white civil war”

Charles Manson had many followers who he later referred to as his “Family”. He was never able to accomplish a family, but now he was able to fill that void with his family. Charles Manson and his family of followers killed innocent people in an attempt to start a counterrevolution in America. His family believed Manson’s claims of being the messiah as well as his prophecies on the race war. His followers followed him like a cult leader. According to Bugliosi & Gentry (1974), Manson’s followers took his statements as gospel, believed in his supposed music talent, and took his orders without hesitation. The first murder began on July of 1969, with the stabbing to death of 34-year-old Gary Hinman. Gary Hinman was a music teacher and an acquaintance of Manson (former roommate) and several Family members. The motivation for Hinman’s murder was a robbery.

Manson had ordered his followers to steal money from Hinman who he had recently inherited money. On the wall of Hinman’s living room, one of the followers wrote: “Political Piggy,” and also drew an animal’s paw print with the victim’s blood. On August 9, 1969, the four main family members Manson had selected were: Charles Watson, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel. All four members arrived at the home of film director Roman Polanski and his wife, actress Sharon Tate. When the followers reached the home, Charles Watson climbed a telephone pole and cut the phone line to the home. A car that was approaching, the driver Steven Parent was close to the gate on the driveway. Parent, was a recent high school graduate and electronics salesman at a local store. Parent had been visiting the residence’s caretaker and was on his way home. Watson stopped the car and confronted Parent. After cutting off Parent’s wristwatch, Watson shot him four times.

The group then climbed a wall into the property and headed up a hill to the house.  As Linda Kasabian stood guard at the bottom of the hill, the remaining three Family members entered the home and gruesomely murdered the four occupants: Sharon Tate and her unborn child, Wojciech Frykowski, Jay Sebring, and Abigail Folger. All the victims were all stabbed to death in or around the home. After murdering the victims Susan Atkins wrote “Pig” on the house door with Sharon Tate’s blood. Charles Manson didn’t participate in the Hollywood Murder but he joined his followers in the second murder crime. The following night after the first murder, Manson accompanied the same four Family members and two additional followers, Leslie Van Houten and Steve Grogan, to the Los Angeles home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.

Leno LaBianca (44 years old) was a grocery store owner and graduate of the University of Southern California. The victims were killed shortly after the Family members entered the home through an unlocked back door. According to C. Watson & Hoekstra, (1978) even though Manson helped tie up both LaBiancas, he left before any of the killing took place and set out instructions for Watson to kill the couple. As well as to kill the victims as gruesome as possible. Watson killed the victims and wrote “War: into Mr. LaBianca’s Abdomen and the rest of the followers wrote messages with the victim’s blood as well. Charles Manson always gives his family members instructions, as well assigned them in the participation of the killing. There are many different theoretical viewpoints that can be used to describe how Charles Manson become the man that he is today and why he committed those crimes.

All forms of strain theory share an emphasis on frustration as factor in crime causation, hence the name strain theories. Although the theories differ regarding what exactly is causing the frustration-and the way individuals cope (or don’t cope) with stress and anger-they all hold that strain is the primary causal factor in the development of criminality. In the 1980s, Robert Agnew proposed general strain theory which covers a much larger range of behavior by not concentrating on simply the lower class but providing a model more applicable to the frustrations that all individuals feel every day. Unlike other strain theories, general strain theory does not rely on assumptions about the frustration arising when people realized that the American dream is a false promise to those of the lower classes. Rather, this theoretical framework assumes that people of all social classes and economic positions deal with frustration on routine daily life.

Strain theory focused on the strain that causes an individual to commit crime. The theory claimed that negative treatment from others causes anger and frustration, which lead an individual to commit crimes. Agnew expanded the strain theory and included variables other than money, status and lacking of legitimate and illegitimate opportunities that result in strain. Agnew’s theory is based on the idea that when people are treated badly they may get upset and engaged in crime. Agnew identified two categories of strain: presentation of noxious stimuli and removal of positively valued stimuli. The loss of positively valued stimuli claimed that the loss of positive stimuli can cause strain. This loss can include breaking a relationship with a friend or romantic partner, or could be the result of losing a valued object. Some examples that demonstrate the presentation of noxious stimuli are: child abuse, neglect, harmful relationships with parents and teachers, negative school experience, harmful relationships with peers, neighborhood problems and homelessness.

Agnew’s general strain theory suggested that an increase in strain would result in an increase in anger, which would then result in individuals to commit crimes. In addition to the failure to achieve one’s goals, Agnew claimed that the presentation of noxious stimuli in one’s life could cause major stress and frustration. The removal of positive stimuli is the largest cause of frustration. This theory heavily applies on Charles Manson. Charles Manson had a lot of noxious stimuli and the removal of positively throughout his life. Manson has been constantly reminded of his failure to achieve positively valued goals for his entire life. He had been to reform school, foster homes, jails and prison throughout his whole life. He was first jailed at age of 12 and first sentenced to prison at age 16.

According to Emmons (1986), Manson was quoted as saying he experienced more rejection from his mother and family than love or acceptance. Manson frequently experienced the loss of loved ones early in life. The strain of being abandoned by a parental figure weighed heavily on the development of his feelings toward unity and closeness. His mother was an alcoholic and prostitute who abandoned him at the age of thirteen. His mother sent him off to Gibault School of Boys which was a reform school. Charles Manson had always suffered from rejection from his father, mother and now his wife. He had psychological instability, Reactive attachment disorder (RAD), antisocial personality disorder, emotional trauma and later diagnosed with schizophrenia. Manson’s wives divorced him and he never had a father figured while growing up.

After being sent to prison, his wife left him another man who was truck driver. His wife took their child with her. During an interview with Emmons Manson told Emmons that “after his family’s abandonment all thoughts of becoming a straight person left him at that time” The loss of something that represented true love and satisfaction introduced an immeasurable amount of strain into Manson’s life. Manson experienced the loss of positively valued stimuli when he was confined in the boy’s school. He was punished because of his primary nocturnal enuresis. He also experienced the presentation of noxious stimuli when he witnessed forced homosexual acts on other children. This model of describes the flow of the General strain theory. It also shows how what type of factors can lead an individual to develop criminal behavior.

Cloward and Ohlin’s differential opportunity theory relates to the issues found throughout Manson childhood. Charles Manson ranaway from the Boy School and turned to the street. He started committing small crimes in order to survive which later lead up to bigger crimes that would eventually put him in prison. Manson started to indulge in what Cloward and Ohlin would call illegitimate opportunities such as theft in general, stolen cars, solicitation of prostitution, and forgery of federal checks because he didn’t have the skills required to achieve legitimate goals. Manson strove for status through his involvement in a gang subculture. His gang was called the family. Manson had been in and out of prisons throughout his life, which caused him to have antisocial behavior.

After his release in 1967, Charles started gathering his followers who become his family which neglected all of the conventional morals of the western world. The family is major example of Cloward and Ohlin’s theory of conflict subcultures as a type of gang that uses violence, which predominates as a way of winning status.  Through “The Family”, he achieved master status and convinced his followers that he was Jesus. He also influenced his followers to believe in his doctrine and would kill white people and try blame it on black people. His gang called “The Family” committed murders as a means of gaining head status for ruling the world and creating a race war. Cloward and Ohlin would say that Manson achieved his master status through illegitimate means that he could not obtain through legitimate means.

Labeling theory is a theoretical perspective that assumes that criminal behavior increase because certain individuals are caught and labeled as offenders. Their offending increases because they have been stigmatized as offenders. This perspective also assumes that certain people (low class or minorities) are more likely to be caught and punished. Another assumption of this theory is that if such labeling did not occur, the behavior would stop. Charles Manson’s attitude toward criminal activity can be explained by the labeling theory. Throughout his life, Charles Manson has always been labeled by society. Having an alcoholic and prostitute for a mother who was also 16 years old made it worse for Charles while growing up. He was an illegitimate and bastardy children. At the age of thirteen, he was labeled as a delinquent and later it moved to being known as a criminal, Social learning theories are theoretical models that assume criminal behavior of individuals is due to a process of learning from others the motivations and techniques for engaging in such behavior.

Virtually all of the variations of the learning perspective propose that the process involved in a person learning how and why to commit crimes are the same as those involved in learning in learning to engaged in conventional activities. Manson had many opportunities to be influenced by and learn criminal behavior from those around him from the time he was very young. After running away from the Boys school, Charles started committing small crimes and later big crimes that ended him in prison. He learned how to engage in criminal behavior while being on the street. He had been in and out of penitentiaries throughout his life where he learned to commit worse crimes in prison. The father of Criminology Cesare Lombroso claimed that the most serious offenders are born criminal.

I agree with Lombroso that everyone is born a criminal, while growing up children commit small crimes like stealing money from their parents or stealing the cookies from the cookie jars. Everyone is capable of committing a crime, but because of self-control and knowing that commit crimes comes with harsh consequences, most people choose not to commit crime. People know that crimes are acts can be wither mala in se or mala prohibita. Charles Manson possessed the actus reus but he lacked mens rea. I think that there needs to be revision that consider the offender’s environment prior to the commission of the crime. There also needs to build better youth shelters so that children won’t run away because they are being abused (physically, emotional or sexually). The dysfunctional family system needs to be fixed.


  1. A Profile of Convicted Serial Killer Charles Manson. (n.d.). Retrieved February 15, 2016, from
  2. Bugliosi, V., & Gentry, C. (1974). Helter Skelter: The true story of the Manson murders. New York, NY: Norton.
  3. Emmons, N. (1986). Manson in his own words: As told to Nuel Emmons. New York, NY: Grove Press.
  4. Tibbetts, S. G. (2012). Criminological theory: The essentials. Los Angeles: SAGE.
  5. Watson, C., & Hoekstra, R. (1978). Will you die for me? Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell.

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Running head: Charles Manson And The Family. (2021, Dec 23). Retrieved from

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