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Analytical Essay on Types of Aggression and Methods to Reduce It

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Aggression is a term people use to describe the behavior of others that is tended to harm someone else (Aronson, Wilson, Akert, 2016). There are several different types of aggression that some might not be aware of. This paper will explain some of the different types of aggression, how aggression affects people and the situation, and ways to reduce aggressive behaviors. Aggression is not only the act of physically harming someone else, but it can be using words to hurt someone’s feelings.

Instrumental Aggression

One type of aggression is called instrumental aggression. This is the type of aggression that is intentional and planned to reach an end goal. According to Campbell and Muncer (2008), instrumental aggression is primally used by women than men in daily life. It is believed that women prefer not to use physical harm to reach a goal. Instrumental aggression represents the offensive function of aggression and is often conceptualized by social learning theory (Bandura, 1973). Social learning theory holds that a great deal of aggression is prompted by its anticipated benefits. Here, the instigator is the pull of expected success, rather than the push of aversive treatment (Bandura, 1973). Stemming from this view of aggression, instrumental aggression is defined as a goal-directed behavior controlled by external reinforcements that occur in anticipation of self-serving outcomes (Little, Jones, Henrich, & Hawley, 2003). Thus, instrumental aggression is unprovoked, premeditated behavior aimed at achieving a specific goal through the use of aggression. Some examples of instrumental aggression would be shoplifting or disciplining a child to make them behave differently.

Romantic Relationship Aggression

Romantic relational aggression occurs when one partner in a romantic relationship harms their romantic partner’s interpersonal relationships or feelings of acceptance, friendship, and group inclusion within those relationships (Crick & Grotpeter, 1995). Relationally aggressive acts are committed by individuals in order to manipulate and coerce their partners (Archer &Coyne, 2005), often to receive a specific goal or reward. Relational aggression in romantic relationships is predictive of depression (Ellis, Crooks, & Wolfe, 2009), relationship instability, and poor relationship quality. It is also associated with feelings of frustration, distrust, and jealousy within the romantic relationship (Linder, Crick, & Collins, 2002). Furthermore, romantic relational aggression is positively associated with alcohol and drug use (Bagner, Storch, & Preston, 2007) and physical aggression. An example of this would be domestic violence between a male and woman, male and male, or female and female.

Athlete Aggression

Athlete aggression is a social issue, originating from a desire to win and compromise of moral reasoning. Aggression is present in and out of competitive environments and is manifested in physical and emotional forms. It has been proven through extensive research that anger and aggression lead to injury on the field or court for victims and that family, friends, and acquaintances of aggressive athletes are at risk for bodily and psychological harm (Grange, Kerr, 2011). Much of the research on athletes’ aggressiveness and anger has been done at the high school and professional levels, especially in professional ice hockey. However, college athletics remain greatly understudied. It is suggested but not absolute what the differences between various sports are in terms of aggressive tactics. Thus, the present study is significant in that it sought to add to the growing knowledge of collegiate athlete aggression tendencies on and off the field. Zillmann (1974) proved that athletes are less aggressive than non-athletes. He said that athletics provide an outlet for natural, pent-up aggression that would otherwise be displayed at inappropriate times. Furthermore, he proposed that it was healthy for an individual to allow himself or herself to be aggressive in sport.

Gender Difference in Aggression

While men were found to report significantly more use of both proactive and reactive physical aggression than women, no gender differences emerged for relational aggression. In other words, men appeared to be more physically aggressive than women, though men and women did not differ in their degree of relational aggression. The authors theorized that males may learn during the adolescent years that relational aggression carries less risk of negative social consequences, and as a result may increase their use of this form of aggression while decreasing their use of physically aggressive behavior.

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Other studies have found that men and women exhibit similar levels of relational aggression overall, though women and men may be more relationally aggressive than the opposite gender in different contexts. Murray-Close, Ostrov, Nelson, Crick, and Coccaro’s (2010) survey of 800 women and 587 men between the ages of 25 and 45 found no gender differences in respondents’ overall use of relational aggression.

However, women reported engaging in more romantic relational aggression than men, while men appeared to be more relationally aggressive toward peers as compared to women. Relational aggression also appears to relate to different sets of correlates in women versus men. In a study examining the personality and emotional correlates of relational aggression, with the goal of also clarifying gender differences, self-report data was collected from 134 undergraduate students. Participants completed measures of normal personality based on the five-factor model, depression, anxiety, physical aggression, relational aggression, and emotional comprehension and functioning (e.g., empathy, assertiveness). Results included the finding that relational aggression was related to lower agreeableness and deficient overall emotional understanding and functioning, regardless of gender. Relational aggression was also related to higher levels of neuroticism in men and lower conscientiousness, empathy, social responsibility, and interpersonal skills for women. Men reported greater use of physical aggression than women, with no gender differences on the relational aggression measure. Thus, although the use of relational aggression did not appear to differ by gender in this sample, the construct does appear to be associated with different emotional and personality correlates for men as compared to women (Burton et al., 2007).

Methods to Reduce Aggression

Stimulant Medication, Mood Stabilizers, and Typical/Atypical Antipsychotics have proven useful in limiting aggressive and destructive behaviors in children diagnosed with conduct disorder, ADHD, ODD, and co-morbid low IQ. While research supports these treatments for children who are developmentally delayed, it has not been shown to be effective in children with low IQ and co-morbid pervasive developmental disorder, autism, psychosis, head injury, or seizure disorders.

Methylphenidate – This stimulant has proven extremely effective in treating ADHD including episodes of aggression. Recent studies have also shown this medication is effective in treating acting-out behaviors in children with conduct disorder.

Mood Stabilizers and Typical/Atypical Anti-psychotics – The mood stabilizer lithium, commonly used for bipolar disorder, has been shown to be effective in decreasing aggression in children with treatment-resistant aggressive conduct disorder ages 5 to 12. The typical antipsychotics including haloperidol, thioridazine, and chlorpromazine are frequently used to treat aggression found in severe explosive disorders in children. The atypical anti-psychotic Risperidone has been used successfully to decrease or eliminate aggressive behavior in children with ADHD.

Behavior therapy has been shown to help control aggression in children and adolescents with ODD, ADHD, and CD. These techniques are based on learning principles and parents are taught different techniques such as reinforcement, ignoring, and alternate disciplinary strategies to help the child learn to control their anger. Parents are also provided with strategies to manage their own frustration.


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