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Aggression is any behavior that is directed toward injuring, harming, or inflicting pain on another living being or group of beings. Generally, the victim(s) of aggression must wish to avoid such behavior in order for it to be considered true aggression. Hostile aggression is an aggressive act that results from anger, and is intended to inflict pain or injury. Instrumental aggression is regarded as a means to an end other than pain or injury. The concept of aggression is broad, and includes many categories of behavior (street crime, child abuse, war, etc.). Theories on aggression are commonly categorized according to the three variables that are present whenever any aggressive act is committed. First, aggressors are examined in terms of the causes of their actions. Research/theories have devoted particular attention to biological, psycho-pathological, social learning, and rational choice explanations for aggression, in addition to a variety of other influences (such as drugs, alcohol, arousal, etc.). The phenomenon of aggression is complex, and many factors may affect those who engage in it. Second, situational factors may have an important impact on aggression. Issues such as frustration-aggression, environmental stressors, and sociocultural influences (such as the popular culture) have received significant examination in this regard. Targets or victims constitute the third component of aggressive behavior. Demographic factors (such as race, gender), and the retaliatory capacity of victims are of importance here. Effects of aggression on victims, such as learned helplessness and blaming the victim, are also of significant concern.
- Bandura, (1973) Aggression: A Social Learning Analysis. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.
- Miller, E. (1941) The frustration-aggression hypothesis. Psychological Review 48: 337-42.