Ted Bundy Through the Developmental Psychology Lens

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Case Study: Ted Bundy Through the Developmental Lens
Ted Bundy was a notorious American serial killer known to be active between 1973 and 1978. Before his execution in 1989, Bundy confessed to over 30 murders, although the actual number is estimated from 26 to 35 or more. His modus operandi was to lure and bludgeon young women, and then strangle them to death. Bundy confessed to acts of rape, mutilation and necrophilia with his victims. He escaped twice from county jails prior to his final apprehension in 1978, and was executed by electric chair in 1989 in Florida. Developmental History

Bundy was born Theodore Robert Cowell on November 24, 1946, at the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mothers in Burlington, Vermont. He lived with his mother and grandparents near Philadelphia during early childhood. The identity of his father is unknown, although his mother described being seduced by a war veteran. To avoid the social stigma attached to being an unwed mother, his grandparents claimed him as their son. Bundy reportedly grew up believing that his mother was his older sister, and likely did not learn the truth about his biological parents until high school or later. His grandfather was known to be temperamentally volatile, abusive toward animals, authoritarian, and a consumer of pornography. Bundy later reported a strong early attachment to him (Rule, 2009).

Bundy’s mother moved to Washington in 1950, married, and had four more children. Ted spent a great deal of time babysitting and remained detached from his stepfather emotionally, often scorning the Boy Scout camping trips arranged by his stepfather in favor of isolation, preferring reading and listening to radio talk shows. The Bundy family lived in a middle-class neighborhood in Tacoma, Washington, and was of modest economic means. His mother worked as a secretary and his step-father was a cook at an Army Hospital, and together they picked beans in nearby fields on weekends to supplement their income (Rule, 2009). The family was active in Church-related social activities, and Bundy was a regular attendee at Sunday school.

In junior high school, Bundy was frequently teased by his male peers for his shyness. He performed well academically, but was socially awkward and somewhat introverted. During adolescence, he was arrested twice for suspicion of auto theft and burglary, and became known to juvenile authorities (Rule, 2009). Bundy reported later that he became aware during high school that he did not understand the socialization aspect of life, nor did he understand friendships or why people wanted friends. He also had a fascination with increasingly violent forms of pornography, and devoured detective magazines and books on sexually violent crime. Bundy later went on to become an honor student in psychology at the University of Washington, and was enrolled in law school in Utah at the time of apprehension for murder in 1975. He became romantically involved with a female student, the daughter of a wealthy California family, who later abruptly ended their relationship due to his lack of ambition, an event he found so humiliating that it may have triggered his murderous rampage (Michaud, 2000). Discussion

Bundy’s development might be best understood in the context of Bowlby/Ainsworth’s attachment theories, Erickson’s psychosocial development theory, and Piaget’s moral development model. The reader should be reminded that some elements of Bundy’s self-reported history may be unreliable due to inconsistencies, manipulation and impression management.

Louise Bundy was 22 years old when she gave birth to Ted, and was ostracized by her church and family. After birth, she left infant Ted at the Elizabeth Lund Home for 3 months and returned to Philadelphia, considering whether to put him up for adoption. Ted was deprived of the proximity and nurturance of his biological mother during a critical development period when important attachments of trust...
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