Harsh social conditions in South Africa - single-parent families, poverty and a history of violence - are fertile ground for breeding serial criminals.
With the country ranked second in the world for the number of serial rapists and third in terms of serial killers, Wits University psychology department's Giada del Fabbro has warned that serial rape and killing have reached "epidemic proportions".
The situation is compounded by poverty and the disempowerment of citizens.
"Our society is being affected by an unprecedented level of suppressed rage," Del Fabbro said.
Increasing poverty compromised care-giving, he said.
"With the inability of caregivers, such as mothers, to give 100% of their attention to children . and the growing absence of fathers, there is an increasing breakdown in the development of empathy in children."
She said a society focused on administering harsh and punitive discipline was being created. This, combined with violent parenting, was leading to people seeking revenge on those who were perceived to be linked to what had been done to them as young children.
"There is incredible rage within our youth .
"We are breeding a society of serial criminals of epidemic proportions, which, with a crumbling and overburdened social welfare system unable to implement the necessary intervention systems, will go undetected until it is too late," she said.
Childline director Joan van Niekerk said the biggest contributing factor to violent adult behaviour was a lack of relationships in childhood.
"We know that children - especially boys - who grow up exposed to violence, parti-cularly sexual and physical, are at risk of becoming extremely violent adults."