Chapter 9: Aggression and Antisocial Conduct
What is Aggression?
Aggression as an Instinct
Hostile, aggressive energy would build up to a critical level and then be
discharged through some form of violent, destructive behaviour.
Behavioural and Intentional Definitions of Aggression
Behavioural definitions of aggression: any action that delivers noxious
stimuli to another organism.
Intentional definition of aggression: any action intended to harm or injure
another living being, who is motivated to avoid such treatment.
Hostile aggression: aggressive acts for which the perpetrator’s major goal is
to harm or injure a victim.
Instrumental aggression: aggressive acts for which the perpetrator’s major
goal is to gain access to objects, space, or privileges.
Aggression as a Social Judgment
Aggression is really a social label that we apply to various acts, guided by our
judgments about the meaning of those acts to us.
Theories of Aggression
Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory
According to Freud, aggressive energy can be discharged in a socially
acceptable fashion through vigorous work or play, or through less desirable
activities such as insulting others, fighting, or destroying property.
Lorenz’s Ethological Theory of Aggression
Lorenz argues that humans and animals have a basic fighting (aggressive)
instinct that is directed against members of the same species.
Aggression can help most species survive because they have evolved various
instinctual inhibitions that prevent them from killing members of their own
A Critique of Instinct Theories Our capacity for empathy, and the sympathetic emotions it may foster, is
itself a product of human evolution and is (or can become) a powerful
inhibitor of aggression.
Frustration/aggression hypothesis: early learning theory of aggression,
holding that frustration triggers aggression and that all aggressive acts can
be traced to frustrations.
Berkowitz’s Revised Frustration/Aggression Hypothesis
Aggressive cues must be present before an angry person will behave
Aggressive cues hypothesis: the presence of stimuli previously associated
with aggression can evoke aggressive responses from an angry individual.
Bandura’s Social-Learning Theory
Observational learning: a cognitive process whereby children attend to and
retain in memory the aggressive responses they see others commit.
Direct experience: reinforced for aggressive behaviour will be more likely to
resort to aggression in the future.
How is Aggression Maintained?
Highly aggressive children have presumably learned that the use of force is
an effective and efficient means to other ends.
Aggressive habits often persist because they are (1) instrumental to the
satisfaction of other goals, (2) useful as a means of terminating other’s
noxious behaviours, (3) socially sanctioned by aggressive peers, and (4) even
intrinsically rewarding for the aggressor.
Internal Arousal and Aggressive Behaviour
Any kind of internal arousal may be more a catalyst for rather than an
instigator for aggression.
Evaluating Bandura’s Theory
Proactive aggressors: highly aggressive children who find aggressive acts
easy to perform and who rely heavily on aggression as a means of solving
social problems or achieving other personal objectives.
Reactive aggressors: children who display high levels of hostile, retaliatory
aggression because they overattribute hostile intents to others and can’t control their anger long enough to seek nonaggressive solutions to social
Dodge’s Social Information-Processing Theory
Will first encode and interpret the immediate cues.
Child must then formulate a goal, generate and evaluate possible strategies
for achieving this goal, and finally, select and enact a response.
Many youngsters take mental shortcuts, skipping certain steps or working on
two or more at the same time.
Hostile attributional bias: tendency to view harm done under ambiguous
circumstances as having stemmed from a hostile intent on the part of the
harm-doer; characterizes reactive aggressors.
Evaluating Dodge’s Theory
This social-cognitive model is most useful in helping to understand why
children and adolescents might behave aggressively in particular social
situations rather than informing us about why children become aggressive
(or nonaggressive) in the first place and how they acquire the information-
processing biases that they come to display.
Developmental Trends in Aggression
Early Conflict and the Origins of Aggression
Conflicts: circumstance in which two (or more) persons have incompatible
needs, desires, or goals.
Toddlers do become more physically aggressive between their first and
second birthdays, they are also becoming better at resolving conflicts in
Age-Related Changes in the Nature of Aggression
Aggression During the Preschool Period
Unfocused temper tantrums diminish during the preschool period and are
uncommon after age 4.
The incidence of forceful, oppositional behaviours normally peas at about 3
years of age and very gradually declines over the preschool period.
2-3 year olds are likely to hit, bite, or kick and adversary.
Older preschoolers show less physical aggression as they choose instead to
tease, taunt, tattle and call their victim uncomplimentary names.
Children are likely to learn from their own experiences that negotiation and
sharing can be relatively painless and efficient methods of achieving objective that they used to attempt through shows of force, without
undermining their relationships with playmates.
Aggression During the Grade-School Years
Older children are becoming more proficient role-takers and thus are better
able to infer the motives and intentions of other people.
Retaliatory aggression: aggressive acts elicited by real or imagined
Perpetrators and Victims of Childhood Aggression
17% of students reported having been bullied at least sometimes during the
19% reported bullying others at least sometimes.
6% did both.
Boys more likely to be bully and victimized than girls were.
Boys physically bullied, girls verbally bullied.
Bullies were more likely to smoke, drink and be poor students.
Passive victims: socially withdrawn, sedentary, physically weak, and
reluctant to fight back, and appear do little to invite the hostilities they
Provocative victims: oppositional, restless, and hot-tempered individuals
who often irritated peers, were inclined to fight back when picked on, and
who displayed the hostile attributional bias that characterizes reactive
Bully/victims: a small subset of children who are often bullied and who, in
turn, often bully their more positive peers.
Aggression and Antisocial Conduct in Adolescence
Teenage boys become more inclined to act out their anger and frustrations
indirectly through such acts as theft, truancy, substance abuse, mal