9.566 aggression online

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Wed, 21 Feb 1996 18:41:09 -0500 (EST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 566.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: Postmaster@attach.edu.ar (209)
Subject: Aggression-Psychology on the Internet

A new mailing list by the name of Aggression-Psychology has just been
launched on the Internet. Details follow:

Aggression-Psychology on Listserv@sjuvm.stjohns.edu - Discussions on
the Psychology of Aggression

1. Introduction
2. What is aggression?
3. Psychological Studies
3.1. Anger and aggressive behaviour elicited by separation
3.2. Anger functional and dysfunctional
3.3. Early deviant patterns of attachment and the development of
psychopathy and sociopathy
5. Methodology of discussions on the Aggression-Psychology network

1. Introduction

Aggression-Psychology is a moderated mailing list devoted to the
study and discussion of the antecedents, development, manifestations,
regulation and reduction of aggressive behavior. Consideration of
prosocial behaviors of cooperation and conflict resolution in the
context of constructive alternatives to aggression is appropriate.
Aggression is viewed as a multidetermined behaviour influenced, in
varying degrees, by biological, socialization, experiential, cultural
and situational factors. Aggression is expressed at many different
societal levels - the individual, familial, social group,
institutional, national, international, and discussions of aggression
at any of these levels are appropriate for the mailing list.
Aggression may occur in varied forms and varied contexts. It may be
physical; it may be verbal; it may or may not be acc ompanied by
anger; it may be revengeful, instrumental to some other goal, or may
seem purposeless. It may vary in the degree of injury inflicted. It
may tak e place in the home, in school. on the street, at the
workplace, or on the on the battlefield. The orientation of this
mailing list is guided by a specific belief and value- namely, that,
in general, aggression is a pernicious evil that in the great
majority of instances needs to be eliminated and more constructive
alternatives found.

Hence, scholars and students of human and non-human aggression
from every body of knowledge are welcome to join in.

2. What is aggression?
We define aggressive behavior as a complex set of behaviours
that are grouped together because they have a common consequence,
that is inflicting harm or injury to others., in different ways.
Aggressiveness is hence a social behavior that involves at least
two individuals. We think of the study of aggression from
infancy on, as a phenomenon that pervades the entire life-span,
and all the institutions of our society, unconsciously motivated,
most of the times, that prevents the world's society's growth
and harmonic development.

In spite of the fact of the increasing preocupation in society,
generally, and among scholars, in particular, related to the
pervasiveness of aggressive behaviour, few, if any, have proved
effective in stopping it; and, moreover, however much we may
regret it, aggressivess is doubtlessly on the increase the world
over, and at every level of society.

We adhere to the Seville statement on violence of 1986.
Its five main propositions read:

1. It is scientifically incorrect to say that we have inherited
a tendency to make war from our animal ancestors.

2. It is scientifically incorrect to say that war or any other violent
behaviour is genetically programmed into our human nature.

3. It is scientifically incorrect to say that in the course of
human evolution there has been a selection for aggressive behaviour
more than for other kinds of behaviour.

4. It is scientifically incorrect to say that humans have a "violent

5. It is scientifically incorrect to say that war is caused by
"instinct" or any single motivation.

Unfortunately, the pervasive notion we are dealing with
destructive instincts inherent in human nature has widely
prevented looking into the developement of aggression as from

Do we know when aggressiveness emerges in the human infant?
Classical psychology seems to account for a typical chronological
schedule of love and attachment development to both parents, but
remains silent as to the emergence of aggression. Consequently,
the question would be: when do first aggressive behaviours turn
up in an infant? We are certain these do not become apparent as
from birth.

There is little, if any, empirical evidence to substantiate the
biological bases of aggressiveness (intraspecifical aggressiveness).
Learning and experience seem to play a powerful role in that they
involve the acquisition of aggressive motivation and aggressive
behaviour. Human intraspecifical aggression does seem to be a
reactive response to environmental settings.

Studies on the relationship between family-context features and
child-rearing as regards the child's aggressive behaviour seem
clearly to show that family environment proves an important
determinant of both development of aggressive and non-aggressive

>From an ethological viewpoint, agression can be deemed an abridgment
of the rights of another, forcing him to surrender something he owns
or might otherwise have attained, either by physical act or by the
threat of action to the extent that loss to a victim is a real
loss in that it lowers genetic fitness.

>From human viewpoint, agression entails a set of behaviours that
might comprise from an angry feeling to a thought of revenge, teasing
and debasement, fighting over a contested object, bullying in all its
multiple forms, sadism, murder, and war. All these behaviours share
a common aim: causing injury and harm to others.


3.1. Anger and aggressive behaviour elicited by separation
Heinicke and Westheimer (1966) carried out a study of ten children
aged 13-32 months of age during and after a stay of two or more weeks
in a residential nursery. Comparisons were made between the
separated children and a control group of home-bound children. It
emerged that separated children responded aggressively at a rate of
4 times more frequently than non-separated children on the same

Children respond to separation of attachment with either anger of
hope or anger of despair. Anger of hope is shown on reunion when
the child reproachfully demands his mother for her abscence. Anger
of despair is when separation is so long and frequent that anger
and aggressive beahviour are no longer useful in attracting the
attachment figure's attention.

The fact that anger and aggressive behaviour in young children are
elicited by separation or loss of the attachment figure seems to
have escaped most clinicians and aggression-psychology students.
Originally anger with the absent figure has as its aim reproaching,
punishing the attachment figure so as to discourage further
separation. Therefore, although expressed towards the attachment
figure, such anger acts to promote, and not to disrupt, the bond.

3.2. Anger functional and dysfunctional
Aggressive, coercive behaviour which tends to discourage separations
is compatible with close ties. The fact that it can so readily become
dysfunctional probably explains why aggression students often neglect
its proximity-promoting origin.

Dysfunctional anger and aggressive behaviour occur whenever a person,
child or adult, engaged in a close relationship, becomes so intensely
and persistently angry with his partner that the bond between them is
weakened, instead of strengthened, and the partner is alienated. Anger
with a partner becomes dysfunctional also whenever aggressive thoughts
or acts cross the narrow boundary between being deterrent and being
revengeful. It is at this point, too, that feeling ceases to be the
hot displeasure of anger and become, instead, the malice of hatred.

3.3. Early deviant patterns of attachment and the development of
psychopathy and sociopathy
John Bowlby (1907-1990) noticed back in 1944, in a paper he published
in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis (Forty-four Juvenile
Thieves) that psychopathy generally, and felony, in particular, were
deeply rooted in the youths's early histories of deserting,
threatening, violent parents. In a similar vein, Stott, a British
psychologist who studied delinquency back in 1950, found that 102
male youths aged 15-18, consigned in a confinement facility, reported
histories of early adverse parental attitudes and disrupted
relationships, particularly mother threats of desertion as a means
of discipline. Moreover, a vicious spiral seems to arise from the
mixed feeling of anxiety and anger aroused by threats of this kind.
For, while on the one hand the child is made furiously angry by a
parent's threat to desert, on the other he dare not express that
anger in case it makes the parent actually do so. This is a main
reason, Stott suggests, why in these cases anger at a parent usually
turns repressed and is then redirected to other targets: spouses,
siblings, children, friends, profession, institutions, armies,
or even more vulnerable targets: feeble schoolmates, feeble couples,
feeble friends, parents, relatives, institutions, nations, and so on.

A recently-acquired romantic relationship may, as it now seems
all too often, angrily request more attention from his/her partner.
The partner may have his own emotional background to feel he is
being rightfully blamed and so, respond firstly acquiescently, and
then placatingly to his partner's seemingly unmotivated furious
requests for a closer attachment. As this relationship pattern
endures over time, it is more likely than not that the partner
requesting never-ending claims for security alienates his/her
partner into a so-called sado-masochistic relationship where each
member of the couple ends up striving to prove his/her innocence.
These are unviable relationships and should be terminated.
More often than not, they aren't, just because, as remarked above
a sense of revenge takes pride of place over one's own survival.


4. Methodology of discussions on the Aggression-Psychology network

For the benefit of the list and its members we ask that you ...

o check that you are mailing your message to the appropriate
recipient: personal messages to the person, collective
messages to the mailing list, administrative commands to
the listserver

o use a " message

o quote selectively from posts that you respond to, for the
most part, a complete quote is not necessary

o favour short messages over long messages, unless the topic
requires a long message

o if you disagree with what someone has said, respond to the
message -- don't attack the person

Please try to avoid diatribes and personal abuse, but do not refrain
from criticism whenever you find it fit if you have grounds to do so.
Personal announcements, any form of publicity or advertising, be it
commercial, technical, personal, and so on, will be strongly discouraged,
as well as discussions that do not relate to aggression.

Many people on this list may have differing opinions from your own.
If they didn't, there would't be anything to discuss about. So feel free
to differ and elaborate on your reasons to do so as long as you wish,
but be RATIONAL, advance arguments and present evidence, do not
substantiate your arguments on quotations from literature, most
especially your own. Matters of seniority and renown are considered
irrelevant to discussions: it doesn't matter WHO states such and such,
but WHAT she or he says.

To subscribe to AGGRESSION-PSYCHOLOGY, send the following command to
Listserv@sjuvm.stjohns.edu in the BODY of e-mail:

SUBSCRIBE AGGRESSION-PSYCHOLOGY yourfirstname yourlastname


Owners: Juan C. Garelli <Lagare@attach.edu.ar>
Seymour Feshbach <ekchsyf@mvs.oac.ucla.edu>