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Theories of Aggressive Behavior

A number of theories have been offered to explain aggression and aggressive behavior. Two such approaches are psychodynamics and social cognitive theory, each of which explains aggression as a developmental matter, but from very different perspectives. Freudian theory emphasizes the involvement of innate drives which come into conflict at different ages in the life cycle, and the way these conflicts are resolved in childhood determines how they are manifested in adult behavior. Social cognitive theory emphasizes learning and the achievement of a sense of self-efficacy in childhood. Aggression is not innate but learned in the latter view.

As Lawrence A. Pervin emphasizes, Freud's theories were colored by the social and cultural context of his time and by the fact that he made observations largely of middle- and upper-class patients of the Victorian era. His view begins with the belief that the person is an energy system, a system in which energy flows, is sidetracked, or becomes dammed up. There is a limited amount of energy, and energy used in one way is not available for use in another. The goal of all energy is pleasure, or the reduction of tension or the release of energy. What drives this energy system are forces called drives, sexual and aggressive instincts. Aggression was seen by Freud as an important element in human behavior, based on his observations of such behavior. Aggression is instinctual and innate and thus is present in every human being. How that aggression is manifested will differ from person to person depending on the way different persons' utilize their energy, or rather the way their development decides they will make use of that energy. Freud said that the instinct of aggression was at the bottom of all relations of affection and love between human beings, except for that of the relationship between a mother and her male child. Freud published his theory of aggression in 1920, after the bloody c...

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Theories of Aggressive Behavior. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 02:34, February 23, 2017, from