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Intermittent Explosive Disorder

What is Aggression?

Human Aggression is a pervasive phenomenon, so pervasive as to lead many theorists to believe that aggression is part of human nature.  There have been many theories of aggression. Sigmund Freud proposed that we are driven by a destructive instinct responsible for a generation of hostile aggressive impulses. Learning theorists argued that aggression is the result of frustration. This is currently one of the most widely held theories in the social-learning theory.  Theorists believe that aggressive responses they see others commit, or through direct experience where a child who is reinforced for aggressive behavior will be more likely to resort to aggression in the future.

How is aggression maintained?

According to social learning theorist Bandura, aggressive behaviors are maintained, and may become habitual, if they are instrumental in procuring benefits for the aggressor or otherwise satisfying his or her objectives. Aggressive children have more positive expectancies about the outcomes of aggression compared to their non-aggressive peers.  They are 1) more confident that aggression will yield tangible rewards, 2) more certain that aggression will be easy for them and successful at terminating others’ noxious behavior, and 3) more inclined to believe that aggression will enhance their self-esteem and will not cause their victims nay permanent harm.

Are aggressive children’s expectancies valid?

It turns out that aggressive youngsters may have some very good reasons for attributing hostile intention to their peers. Not only do aggressive children provoke a large number of conflicts, but also they are also more likely than non-aggressive children to be disliked and to become targets of aggression. Non-aggressive children who are harmed under ambiguous circumstances are much more likely to retaliate of the harm doer has a reputation as an aggressive child.

Aged-related changes in the nature of aggression

During the first year of life infants display instrumental aggression, using aggressive means to attain a non-aggressive end.  An example is knocking another child down to get his candy. During the preschool period, children become less likely to throw temper tantrums or to hit others and more likely to resort to verbally aggressive tactics such as name calling or ridiculing. Grade-school children continue to fight over objects, but an increasing number of their aggressive exchanges are hostile outbursts directed at a person. Although the incidence or aggression declines with age, adolescents are not necessarily better behaved, often turning instead to more covert forms of antisocial conduct to express their anger or frustrations. Aggression is a reasonably stable attribute. This means that aggressive preschoolers are likely to be aggressive grade-school children, and an aggressive 8 year-old is likely to exhibit aggression and antisocial conduct as an adolescent.

Cultural and familial influences on aggression

A person’s tendencies towards violence and aggression depend, in part on the culture, subculture, and family setting in which he or she is raised. Cold and rejecting parents who use physical punishment in an erratic fashion and often permit their child to express aggression are likely to raise highly aggressive children. Cold and rejecting parents are frustrating their children’s emotional needs and modeling a lack of concern for others. However, the parent are frustrating their children’s emotional needs and modeling a lack of concern for others. However, the “socialization” of aggression is a two-way street, for characteristics of the child can affect parental attitudes and child-rearing practices. Strife-ridden homes appear to be breeding grounds for aggression. Highly aggressive youngsters who are “out of control” often live in coercive home environments where family members are constantly struggling with one another.

Methods for controlling aggression

  • Time Out

This is a technique in which the adult “punishes” by disrupting or otherwise preventing the aggressive antics the child finds reinforcing, for example, sending a child to his room until he is ready to behave appropriately. Although this technique may generate some resentment, the parent is not physically abusing the child, is not serving as an aggressive model, and is not likely to unwittingly reinforce the child who misbehaves as a means of attracting attention.

  • Modeling behavior

When children see a model choose a non-aggressive solution to conflict or are explicitly coached in the use of non-aggressive methods of problem solving, they become more likely to enact similar solutions to their own problems.

  • Creating non-aggressive environments

Another method that adults may use is to create play areas that minimize the likelihood of interpersonal conflict. For example, providing ample space for vigorous play helps eliminate the kinds of accidental boy contact that often provoke aggressive incidents. Shortages in play materials also contribute to conflicts and hostilities. Also, toys that suggest aggressive themes (guns, tank, etc.) are likely to provoke hostile aggressive incidents.

  • Empathy as a deterrent to aggression

Some preschool children and highly aggressive grad-school children may continue to attack a suffering victim and express little concern about the harm they have done. One explanation may be that the children may no empathize with their victims. In home settings, adults foster the development of empathy by modeling empathetic concern and by using disciplinary techniques that 1) point out the harmful consequences of the child’s aggressive actions and 2) encourage the child to put himself in the victim’s place and imagine how the victim feels.

By learning where a child’s aggressive behavior stem from and using techniques to limit that behavior, you can help that child become calmer, happier individual.