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August 5, 2023 admin No Comments

The Nature and Nurture of Aggressive Behavior

The nature-nurture debate is about how much our behavior, personality, thinking abilities, emotions, and mental health are influenced by both our genes (nature) and the experiences and environment around us (nurture). Nature emphasizes the role of genetic and biological factors. It suggests that certain traits and characteristics are predominantly influenced by our genes, which we inherit from our parents and ancestors. 

On the other hand, nurture emphasizes the importance of environmental factors in shaping who we are. This includes the influence of our family, education, culture, socioeconomic status, and other external experiences.

What is aggression? How to recognize it?

Aggression refers to harmful acts of behavior towards a person or property. It can take place in many situations such as; when a person feels things are not going his way, when a certain situation is overwhelming, or when you want to take revenge for being treated unfairly, emotions are uncontrollable. There are mainly two types of aggressive behavior; instrumental and impulsive behavior. 

Impulsive aggression, also known as reactive aggression, refers to a type of violent behavior that occurs suddenly and without much thought. It is characterized by a rapid and often intense emotional reaction to a perceived threat, frustration, or provocation. Individuals who display impulsive aggression tend to act on their offensive impulses without considering the consequences or alternatives.

Instrumental aggression, on the other hand, also known as proactive violent behavior, refers to a form of violent behavior that is purposeful and goal-oriented. Unlike impulsive aggression, which is driven by emotional arousal and occurs spontaneously in response to immediate triggers, instrumental aggression is premeditated and used as a means to achieve a specific objective or desired outcome. 

Aggression is subtle and/or direct. Direct aggressions are easily recognized but we can also recognize the subtle ones by noticing certain simple gestures such as silent treatment, sarcastic remarks, and reverse blaming known as positive aggression; gossiping and bullying known as relational aggression; shouting, swearing, and insulting known as as verbal aggressions; hitting, kicking, punching known as physical aggression; specific intent to hurt someone, hurting animals, using toys as weapons(with children) or destroy something known as hostile aggression.  

Role of gender in aggression

Aggression has historically been examined as a trait associated primarily with masculinity, and the belief that men are more hostile than women has been widely acknowledged. It is commonly believed that men often display overt and direct physical aggression, whereas women tend to demonstrate relational and indirect forms of it with greater frequency. 

Gender differences in aggression refer to the variations observed in the expression and frequency of hostile behavior between males and females. While it is essential to recognize that individual differences exist within each gender, research has identified some general trends in aggression between men and women.

These differences are influenced by a combination of biological, social, and cultural factors. It’s important to note that these are general trends and do not apply to every individual. On average, men tend to exhibit higher levels of physical aggression compared to women. Physical aggression involves direct acts of violence or harm towards others, such as hitting, punching, and physical confrontations.

This difference is often attributed, at least in part, to biological factors, including higher levels of testosterone in males, which is associated with increased aggression. Verbal aggression, which includes insults, threats, and hostile language, is more evenly distributed between men and women. 

Both genders can engage in verbal aggression, and the alterations are less pronounced compared to physical aggression. Women are often found to engage in higher levels of relational aggression compared to men. Relational aggression involves behaviors aimed at damaging social relationships or reputations, such as spreading rumors, social exclusion, and manipulation. This form of aggression is more prevalent in female social dynamics. Men tend to display more direct and overt forms of aggression, which are easily observable and involve clear intent to harm.

Men and women may respond differently to various triggers. For instance, men may be more prone to aggressive responses in situations involving challenges to their physical strength or dominance, while women may be more reactive in social or relational conflicts. It is crucial to handle gender differences in aggression carefully and avoid perpetuating stereotypes. 

Nature vs nurture and aggression

Some individuals hold the view that children’s behavior is primarily shaped by their inherent nature, while others argue that it’s solely influenced by their nurturing experiences. However, the reality lies in an intricate interplay between genetic factors and environmental influences.

An unhealthy balance of both genes, which may render a child vulnerable to violent or delinquent tendencies, and exposure to a negative environment, are significant factors impacting children’s actions and behavior. Research on so-called “bad” genes, which may predispose a child to undesirable behaviors, reveals that gene expression tends to be magnified when subjected to a negative environment. 

This highlights the notion that violent tendencies don’t stem solely from nature or nurture, but rather from the combination of both. Both nature and nurture play pivotal roles in shaping children and influencing the manifestation of violent behaviors. For instance, children subjected to abuse at home often display more violent tendencies. Moreover, hereditary violent genes might be subdued in a positive environment. 

However, it’s essential to note that some children lack genes that predispose them to violence and don’t experience abuse at home, yet they still exhibit violent behaviors. Understanding the origins of these behaviors, whether rooted in intrinsic traits or learned responses, can pave the way for creating a more conducive environment in the future and potentially reducing the likelihood of violence. 

Conclusion 

Understanding how genetic predispositions and environmental experiences interact is crucial in shaping the variations in aggressive behavior among individuals. This awareness is vital for devising successful interventions and approaches to tackle aggressive tendencies and encourage healthier methods of handling conflicts and emotions. It is essential to promote behaviors, values, and standards that can help decrease the prevalence of aggression in individuals and foster an environment that encourages a calmer and more composed response to stress and conflict triggers. 

Thus, aggression can be effectively addressed positively and constructively. Aggression is a complex behavior influenced by various factors, not limited to gender, such as individual personality, social upbringing, and the situation at hand. IIP Aggression is a scale developed for kids to help them with their behavioral issues. Moreover, the way aggression is expressed can differ greatly across cultures and societies. Recognizing gender differences in aggression can guide intervention approaches to effectively address aggressive behavior, considering the specific factors that contribute to aggression in both males and females. Encouraging healthy conflict resolution methods and nurturing empathy and emotional regulation can be beneficial for individuals of all genders in managing aggressive tendencies.

Written by – Ms. Simran Singh

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