For those who enjoy delving into the aberrant psychologies behind some of the worst true crime, you will soon come to notice that it reflects the same biases and inadequacies as the rest of society. It’s serious nature does not lead it to be immune from the fact that humans are inherently flawed no matter their knowledge, education, family or wealth.
Much focus is placed on the actions of mothers and it reflects wider research in child development and psychology, which until recently has tended to mainly focus on the impact of mothers behaviour, illness or life choices on their children, with little to no consideration of the role of fathers in this impact. Hence the strangle hold of wider society feeling that it is their right to tell complete strangers how to parent, and why their choices are wrong. Fathers physical or emotional absence means they easily fade into the background while women are often portrayed as being the only genetic donor who can effect offspring negatively, and of course, when it comes to true crime this effect is amplified exponentially.
John List, however bucks the trend, and one could argue that he has a fighting chance at the award for Worst Father Ever, along side the likes of Scott Peterson and Mick Philpot. Having killed his wife, all his children and his mother, in a horrifyingly calculated way, and then escaped justice for almost eighteen years, one of his flimsy excuses for his contemptable actions was that he was afraid that family members may give up their Christianity. In essence, Lists crimes exist somewhere on the same continum as honour killings, although they are dissimilar as honour based violence normally has one target, rather than being targeted at the whole family.
However I would posit that we could also view List as the dangerous flip side of the physically and emotionally absent father, the type of father who when faced with their lack of tools and skills to deal with the normal, yet still difficult problems of family life retreats into work, or hobbies, manages to avoid the emotional needs of both partners and children. A rather under researched group when it comes to research into the life chances, and health of the families they have mentally checked out of. The difference between those men and List is that instead of choosing absence from his family, List chose to make his family the absent ones – in the most utterly selfish way.