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A description of aggression as a critical part of animal existence

It is important to consider the multidimensional nature of aggression because different stimuli combine with different types of physiological and mental processes to create distinct forms of aggression.

Although different classification systems for aggression have been proposed, as seen below, these typologies tend to overlap somewhat, with each system having a slightly different emphasis. The forms of types of aggression that are reviewed consist of the clinical classification, the stimulus-based classification, the instrumental versus hostile classification, and the positive versus negative classification.

This type of aggression is defined as a violent response to physical or verbal aggression initiated by others that is relatively uncontrolled and emotionally charged. This type of aggression is characterized as controlled, purposeful aggression lacking in emotion that is used to achieve a desired goal, including the domination and control of others Dodge, 1991 ; Meloy, 1988 ; Raine et al.


Meloy 1988 views aggression in humans as either predominantly affective or predatory. Similarly, Dodge 1991 categorizes childhood aggression as either proactive or reactive, while admitting that very few aggressive acts are purely reactive or proactive in nature.

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual—IV American Psychiatric Association, 1994 reference is made to Intermittent Explosive Disorder, a form of clinical aggression similar to reactive aggression in which the individual for an intermittent, short period of time loses control and becomes inordinately aggressive. Stimulus-based classification Internal stimuli and external stimuli are important antecedents of aggression. Moyer 1968 presented a comprehensive review of different forms of aggression and their neural and endocrine regulation.

He classified aggressive behavior according to seven stimulus situations that elicited the behavior. These antecedent stimuli are as follows: Predatory aggression, stimulated by the presence of a natural object of prey Inter-male aggression, stimulated by the presence of a novel male conspecific a description of aggression as a critical part of animal existence a neutral arena Fear-induced aggression stimulated by threats and always preceded by escape attempts Irritable aggression, stimulated by the presence of any attachable object.

The tendency to display irritable aggression is enhanced by any stressor, such as isolation, electrical shock, and food deprivation. Territorial aggression, stimulated by the presence of an intruder in the home or territory of a resident Maternal aggression, stimulated by a threatening stimulus in the proximity of the mother's young Instrumental aggression, stimulated by any of the situations already described, but strengthened by learning The above classification system emphases the context-dependent nature of aggression and the diversity of situations that trigger aggression.

Instrumental versus hostile aggression Feshbach 1970 originally developed this typology, and it has been elaborated upon more recently by Atkins et al. This influential model separates aggression into instrumental and hostile functions. Instrumental aggression produces some positive reward or advantage impact on the aggressor unrelated to the victim's discomfort.

The purpose of hostile aggression is to induce injury or pain negative impact upon the victim. In this case, there is little or no advantage to the aggressor. This model has been widely studied in community samples of children and adults with varying results Atkins et al. One problem with this classification is that the constructs require careful delineation because many aggressive episodes will have components of both instrumental and hostile aggression.

Positive versus negative aggression Generally speaking, aggression is considered to have a negative function that not only elicits disapproval from others, but also is evaluated as destructive and damaging in its consequences. Ellis 1976 considered positive aggression to be healthy, productive behavior if it promoted the basic values of survival, protection, happiness, social acceptance, preservation, and intimate relations. Furthermore, a certain degree of aggression or dominance helps to facilitate engagement in cooperative and competitive activities with one's peers.

Channeled in the proper direction, human aggression is the force that enables a person to be healthfully self-assertive, dominant, and independent and to achieve mastery of both the environment and the self. Therefore, Jack 1999 believes that positive aggression takes many forms, including self-protection, standing up in the face of negation, pushing for new possibilities, and defending against harm. With respect to negative aggression, this behavior has been defined as acts that result in personal injury or destruction of property Bandura, 1973.

Alternatively, it also has been defined as attacking behavior that harms another of the same species Atkins et al. Negative aggression also is defined as forceful action that is directed towards the goal of harming or injuring another living being Moyer, 1968.

Encroaching on the home or territory of a resident and causing others financial, physical, and emotional damage also is included in negative aggression Moyer, 1968.

Negative aggression is a description of aggression as a critical part of animal existence unhealthy because it induces heightened emotions that can in the long-term be damaging to the individual. Male versus female aggression It is commonly recognized that males are more aggressive that females. Quinsey, Skilling, Lalumiere, and Craig 2004 found that in children and youth, although both males and females are more likely to engage in aggressive behavior and commit violent crimes between the ages of 14 and 24 years than at other ages, the onset for females tends to be two years earlier on average.

Furthermore, there are gender differences in the seriousness of aggression. Males are more likely than females to commit more serious acts of aggression. Women generally cope with anger and frustration in less violent ways. In a study interviewing 60 women of different ages, ethnicities, and class backgrounds, Jack 1999 concluded that women might mask their aggression through manipulation, silence, and exaggerated sweetness. However, over time, such coping mechanisms, can lead to depression, disconnected relationships, or even numbing behaviors such as overeating, drinking, or drug use.

Acts of aggression change during a person's life span. When young children lack verbal skills, aggression is predominantly physical.

Outbursts of anger usually peak around 18 to 24 months of age and gradually decrease by five years of age. At this stage, intention is instrumental. Early childhood aggressive behavior may be in response to parental authority and unrealistic expectations on the part of the parent toward their child. Later as social interactions increase, aggression may be directed towards peers Greydanus et al.

  1. Science, 289 5479 , 591—594. Furthermore, they were told that the other person had to eat all the sauce.
  2. What do you think caused the behavior? Psychological Bulletin, 106 1 , 59—73.
  3. An evolutionary psychological perspective on homicide.
  4. Charles Scribner; New York. Biological contributions to crime causation.
  5. Understanding aggressive behavior in children. In this case, there is little or no advantage to the aggressor.

Later on, such behaviors as teasing, bullying, fighting, irritability, cruelty to animals, and fire-setting occur. During early adolescence, more serious violence develops, including gang fights and use of knives, while in late adolescence use of guns escalates. In adulthood, aggression escalates to include assault, robbery, rape, and homicide.

In cases of childhood, adolescent, and adult aggression, one common characteristic of the aggressive episode is autonomic arousal Raine, 1993. This stimulation of the autonomic nervous system is part of the fight-flight syndrome that prepares the organism for physical action.

Furthermore, Raine et al. The Measurement of Aggression Aggression has been measured in a number of different ways. Perhaps the most popular technique has been to use rating scales that are completed by either the mother of the child or the schoolteacher. One well-used example of such a rating scale is the Child Behavior Checklist Achenbach, 1994.

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A second frequently used measure of aggression consists of self-report measures where the individual fills out a questionnaire to assess different aggressive attitudes and behaviors. Aggression also can be measured by observers. For example, the Overt Aggression Scale Yudofsky, 1986 measures four different types of ward behavior in psychiatric patients by nurse raters. Furthermore, aggression can be measured using a subtype scale that can classify different types of aggression.

More recently, Raine et al. In addition, aggression and aggressive-related measures can be assessed in the justice system by using 1 official files of the police, court, and correctional agencies Klein, 1987 and 2 self-report measures, for example Self-Reported Delinquency Elliott et al. Consequences of Aggression There are numerous important consequences of aggression. With respect to positive and instrumental aggression, there are several potentially positive outcomes.

It serves to preserve and protect the individual. Furthermore, aggression can be used to increase an individual's dominance in their social environment. With respect to negative aggression, the consequences are inevitably more negative for both the perpetrator and the victim. In adolescents and adults, the damage caused by excessive negative aggression includes physical injury, psychological and emotional trauma, and financial costs.

Some consequences cannot be estimated in financial terms. Damage to the individual victim includes psychological and emotional trauma, particularly in response to aggressive acts such as rape and domestic violence. The worst consequence of aggression is lethality. In 1990, 1 in every 257 violent victimizations resulted in loss of life.

There also are consequences for the perpetrator of aggression. Although aggression can result in positive gain for the individual, it also can result in financial loss fines imposed by courtsloss of freedom i. After imprison-men, it can result in loss of job, divorce, and poverty, which can motivate even further aggressive criminal acts to gain resources.

Causes of Aggression Behavioral and social scientists have different theories about aggression. As outlined earlier, Freudians believe that aggression, like sexuality, is an innate drive or instinct in each of us Stoff et al. Others theorize that it is not an inborn drive but a response to frustration that every human being experiences almost from birth.

Aggressive behaviour

Although there are several different ways in which the causes of aggression can be grouped, two broad divisions consist of social and biological explanations. Social Causes Although there are many social factors involved in aggression, two overarching theories that involve social factors external stimuli are briefly outlined. Social learning theory The basic principle underlying social learning theory is that children learn to be aggressive.

Learning is hypothesized to occur both as a result of one's own behavior enactive learning and as a result of viewing others behavior' observation learning Huesmann, 1998. An early proponent of this perspective was Bandura 1973.

In an important series of experiments, Bandura demonstrated that after watching a model being aggressive to a description of aggression as a critical part of animal existence Bobo doll, young children showed more aggressive behavior in their play. In particular, children were observed to imitate the precise actions of the model, indicating that imitation was the principal way in which children learned to be aggressive. In addition to imitation, observational learning is another important process by which children learn to be aggressive.

Some children observe their fathers resolving a dispute or solving a problem by beating their wives. They observe that a certain behavior on the part of the model father beating the mother is followed by a reward for the model resolution of conflict or dominance. The child in turn learns to use similar behavior when confronted with a problem situation, using aggression to resolve the problem or gain control just as their father did. Another example of learning aggressive behavior can be seen in TV violence.

Through the media of television and motion pictures, and even the Internet, children as well as adults are being exposed to brutal acts of aggression at historically high rates Grana et al. The research literature on the long-term effects of media such as TV violence on aggression has demonstrated that for both boys and girls, early exposure to media violence increases the risk for later aggression behavior Huesmann et al.

Results also suggest that this relationship is exacerbated by children identifying with aggressive television characters and fantasizing about aggression. Furthermore, from a social perspective, aggression is subtyped into reactive aggression and proactive aggression, and for each subtype, a separate theory is put forward to explain the origin of the two types. First, the frustration-aggression model Lange, 1971 ; Shinar, 1998 suggests that reactive aggression is an angry retalitory response to a perceived provocation and underlying state of frustration.

Frustration defined as the blocking or thwarting of any on-going goal-directed activity induces an aggressive drive that motivates aggressive behavior. Over time, this aggressive drive builds up. Once frustration is encountered, and given that a certain level of frustration has built up, the aggressive drive is automatically triggered and must be given expression before the drive can be reduced.

Second, as described above, social learning theory Bandura, 1973 offers a comprehensive and incisive analysis of aggression. In the context of Dodge's 1991 theory, it is argued that proactive aggression is acquired and maintained through positive reinforcement. That is, if an aggressive response by one child to another child is followed by a positive reward to the aggressor e.