What are the 3 types of aggression?

In this article, we are going to answer the following question: What are the 3 types of aggression?

We will explain what is reactive-expression aggression; reactive-inexpressive aggression and proactive-relational aggression.

We will also talk about the sources of aggressive behaviour and aggression management. 

What are the 3 types of aggression?

The 3 main types of aggression that we are going to talk about in this article are: reactive-expression aggression; reactive-inexpressive aggression and proactive-relational aggression. 

Reactive-expressive aggression

Human aggression can be direct or indirect. Direct aggression, or reactive-expression aggression,  is characterized by physical behaviours (hitting, any form of physical ferocity) or verbal (screaming, shouting, insulting) intended to harm someone. 

Aggressive behaviour violates social boundaries and can lead to broken relationships with others.

However, occasional aggressive outbursts are common and can even be considered normal in certain circumstances that require and justify self-defence.

The problem occurs when these outbreaks occur frequently or when their effects have already caused too much damage.

Aggressive behaviour comes with irritation and anxiety, but also with difficulties in controlling their own reactions.

There are situations when we choose to be aggressive, to get revenge or to deliberately provoke someone. It often happens that we turn our aggression on ourselves.

The effects of verbal ferocity cannot be seen with the naked eye because they do not leave visible, physical traces, but this does not make them less serious.

Verbal ferocity includes derogatory words, nicknames, insults, indirect criticism, rejection, threat, accusation, sarcasm, raising the voice, lying, verbal abuse disguised as jokes, etc. Such behaviours can leave deep wounds, although not as visible as those left behind by physical ferocity, but just as or perhaps even more painful.

Sometimes we tend to underestimate the power of verbal ferocity and not pay enough attention to it.

Reactive-inexpressive aggression

What characterizes reactive aggressiveness is that it originates as a response to a real or perceived offence; It is the response to the insult or blows that a person feels when they feel hurt by another. 

Occasionally it has been linked to impulsive anger behaviour, arising with the intention of hurting someone and in reaction to recent frustration or provocation.

Thus, in reactive aggression, there is no premeditation of behaviour and its consequences, that is, a rational origin, but it originates from emotion such as anger, fury, hostility or anger.

Reactive aggression is based on Dollard’s (1939) frustration-aggression model, which maintains that this type of behaviour arises as a reaction to a perceived threat and that it is usually related to intense emotional activation, high levels of impulsiveness and hostility, and deficits in information processing. 

Being its main motivation to harm another, without pursuing other objectives or specific goals.

The perceived threat is related to a tendency to assume that other people want to harm us, even though there is no evidence of such intentions.

Proactive-relational aggression

The concept of indirect aggression, or proactive-relational aggression,  is characterized by behaviours designed to harm the social relationships of an individual or a group (teasing, intimidation, spreading rumours or ignoring a person).

Something very different happens in proactive or instrumental aggressiveness, which has its explanation in Bandura’s (1973) social learning model, and which is the one that the person uses as a strategy to obtain a goal or benefit. 

It does not require the emotional activation that characterizes reactive aggressiveness, but it is a type of colder, more instrumental and organized aggressiveness.

The information processing deficits model holds that children and adolescents face social situations with limited biological capacity and with an internalized memory based on their past experiences, which will guide their processing of the information they receive from the outside.

What is Aggression?

We can consider aggression as an attribute of those types of behaviour that are destructive, behaviours that cause material, moral, psychological damage.

Therefore, aggressive behaviour can target objects (house, car, etc.), can target the human being (individual, group, ethnicity, etc.) or both.

At the opposite pole is what is called “prosocial behaviour” which involves concepts such as tolerance, cooperation, help, balance.

Among the forms of manifestation of aggression are: wars, murders, robberies, rapes, robberies, arson, destruction, certain forms of bodily harm, etc.

In trying to define aggression there is a great diversity of points of view. Some authors question whether in defining aggression we should focus more on the aggressive act or intention.

Can a parent be aggressive with his or her child to educate him or her?

 It seems that some authors tend to emphasize the intention, and then aggression becomes: “any act that intends to cause harm to the target.”

So, if the intention is the most important thing, how do we determine or appreciate intention? But “good education”?

  How does the current beating, which a child receives, determine the good behaviour of the adult 20-30 years later?

And who appreciates that this behaviour of the adult is “a good one” or “an educated person”.

From this perspective, of intention, there is both the purpose of provoking “one evil” to the other, but there is also the case where the purpose is to demonstrate the “power” of the aggressor.

Some conceptual delimitations are required.

Aggression is not to be confused with antisocial behaviour, nor with delinquency, nor with deviance, nor with criminality.

In conclusion, aggression is “a form of conduct aimed intentionally at objects, people or oneself (self-aggression), in order to cause harm, injury, destruction and damage.

How do we explain aggression?

Is human aggression related to the hereditary, environmental or educational factor?

Aggression is innate,” said Sigmund Freud and Konrad Lorenz.

People are born with the predisposition or impulse to be violent and to aggress.

As it cannot be removed, non-destructive ways of channelling negative energy must be found through education. 

However, there is a distinction between the two theorists on this: in Freud aggression appears to be predominantly destructive, while in Konrad Lorenz aggression has an adaptive value and is even essential for survival.

If human aggression were only of an instinctual nature, it would be expected to find many similarities between people, related to the way of adopting aggressive behaviour. 

However, the reality permanently demonstrates that there are big differences both at individual and community level. There are individuals, groups and even peoples who are extremely aggressive, while others are very peaceful.

The quasi-generalized rejection of the instinctual nature of aggression does not mean, however, the ignorance of some biological influences on it, such as:

  • neural influences – there are certain areas of the cortex that, following electrical stimulation, facilitate the individual’s adoption of aggressive behaviour;
  • hormonal influences – males are much more aggressive than females due to differences in hormonal nature;
  • Biochemical influences – increased blood alcohol, low blood sugar can intensify aggression.

Aggression is a response to frustration,” according to psychologists at the Yale University in the United States.

When a goal is blocked, frustration arises. This frustration then becomes a source of aggression.

However, it often happens that this aggression cannot be oriented towards the source of the state of frustration, but it is reoriented towards what is called a “safe target”. 

For example, a person cannot sanction his boss and instead quarrel at home with his life partner; a child cannot punish his parent in return but hits another child.

A third explanation would be that “aggression is a learned social behaviour.” Thus appeared the theory of social learning of aggression which argues that aggressive behaviour is learned in several ways:

  • directly, so through direct learning (by rewarding or punishing certain behaviours);
  • by observing and imitating some patterns of behaviour of others, especially adults.

The sources of aggressive behaviours

From the sources of aggression we can list:

1. sources related to the individual, his behaviour and his behavioural reactivity:

  • Frustration;
  • attack (direct provocation) – either physically or verbally; attracts a response or revenge.
  • physical and moral pain;
  • heat – multiple pieces of research highlighted the direct connection between high temperature and aggressive behaviour;
  • congestion – in public transport; in living spaces far too small for the number of people;
  • alcohol and drugs;

2. sources of aggression within the family:

  • a beating or any form of aggression or corporal punishment;
  • intimate relationships with family members.

3. sources related to the mass media, where we include ferocity exposed in the press and television.

Categories of victims

Some authors say that interpersonal aggression is, par excellence, a psychosocial phenomenon and, as such, it raises the issue of “co-participation” of the two members of the conflict (aggressor-aggressor).

Reality shows that in many cases the blame is shared between the two. This has led to the emergence of certain categories of victims:

1. provocative victims, who, prior to their victimization, committed something – conscious or unconscious – towards the offender.

Such cases can be encountered when a person (subsequent victim) behaves arrogantly towards the future offender or if he does not keep a solemn promise, or if he falls in love with the offender’s girlfriend, etc .;

2. victims who precipitate the initiation of the perpetrators’ action. As is the case with persons who, through their conduct, influence criminals to commit crimes, although there has never been any connection between them.

Aggression management

Regarding the management of aggression, there are several ways, proposed by various authors, that take this into account.

One of them, and the oldest, is catharsis. The aggressive negative energy accumulated as a result of frustrations or instinctual impulses must be discharged. The most common ways seem to be:

  • watching materials with many violent scenes, such as plays, movies, sports performances, etc. (Aristotle);
  •  consuming the aggressive impulse at the level of the imaginary and the fantasies (S. Freud);
  • engaging in effective violent actions, but which do not have antisocial consequences – practising sports, aggression towards inanimate objects (Plato);

 However, we opine against the first two points of view because the counter-arguments tend to support the opposite. Multiple studies have already demonstrated the negative effect of viewing violent material on individual aggressive behaviour.

At the same time, it must be borne in mind that ideas, imagination and fantasy are “required” – and sometimes are – put into action, and if their object is violent, the consequences are obviously catastrophic.

Another way to reduce aggression, used since ancient times and in various forms, is punishment.

It is applied after committing the aggressive act and has in view both the sanctioning of the behaviour and the prevention of a similar one. 

Punishments can be institutionalized (legal) or institutionalised (within the family).

The extent to which punishment prevents or corrects behaviour is difficult to assess.

Recidivism is a counterexample but also research that shows that those children punished by the family for aggressive behaviour choose to behave aggressively outside of themselves.

A different way of reducing aggression is shaped by the theory of social learning of aggression.

Namely: “reducing the effects of social learning“. If aggressive behaviour is imitated and learned, then making such acquisitions should avoid the child’s contact with aggressive behaviour patterns. 

Emphasis should be placed in education on the realization in the “inner courts” of the individual of certain “anti-aggressive filters” to protect him on the subject of aggressive responses to various stimuli.

At the same time, education is desirable in the sense of postponing the aggressive automatic response to trigger stimuli.

 A good idea is to be open, willing to learn some relaxation techniques aimed at reducing motor and mental agitation.

Jacobson’s relaxation method, for example, once mastered, can be an extremely useful way in situations where the individual feels that it is becoming increasingly difficult for him to control his aggressive manifestations.

 A good acquisition for anyone, whether we are talking here about situations in which aggression occurs or any other life situations, is the improvement and development of self-control. 

A person who controls his emotions and especially the reactions under their influence, have an increased probability of non-involvement in possible conflict situations and automatically avoids the usually unpleasant consequences of such situations.

Beyond that, self-control, as an “improvement” to the personal way of functioning, brings benefits on many levels of life.

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Conclusions

In this article, we answered the following question: What are the 3 types of aggression?

We explained active-expression aggression; reactive-inexpressive aggression and proactive-relational aggression.

We also talked about the sources of aggressive behaviour and aggression management. 

Human aggression can be direct or indirect. Direct aggression, or reactive-expression aggression,  is characterized by physical behaviours (hitting, any form of physical ferocity) or verbal (screaming, shouting, insulting) intended to harm someone. 

What characterizes reactive aggressiveness is that it originates as a response to a real or perceived offence; It is the response to the insult or blows that a person feels when they feel hurt by another. 

We can consider aggression as an attribute of those types of behaviour that are destructive, behaviours that cause material, moral, psychological damage.

Therefore, aggressive behaviour can target objects (house, car, etc.), can target the human being (individual, group, ethnicity, etc.) or both.

If you’ve enjoyed the ”What are the 3 types of aggression?” mentioned above, I would recommend you to take a look at ”Putting Down Others To Feel Better(The psychology behind it)” too

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know!

References

Gilbert M.A., Bushman B.J. (2017) Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis. In: Zeigler-Hill V., Shackelford T. (eds) Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences. Springer, Cham

Yamasaki K, Nishida N. The relationship between three types of aggression and peer relations in elementary school children. Int J Psychol. 2009;44(3):179-186. 

Learning-theories.com – Social Learning Theory (Bandura)

Psychology.iresearchnet.com – Aggression

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