Aggression - Biological Theory vs Behaviorist Theory
Aggression is a problem that affects all members of society. There is no doubt that aggression pays off for some. Parents who yell and threaten punishment get results. The child who hits the hardest gets the toy. The brother who is willing to be the most vicious in a fight wins. The teacher who gives the hardest test and threatens to flunk the most students usually gets the most study time from students. The spouse who threatens to get the maddest gets their way. The male who acts the most macho and aggressive gets the praise of certain groups of males. For decades psychologists have attempted to find the causes of aggression. The focus of this paper will be on the biological as well as the behavioral theory of aggression. The goal being, to better understand the issue of aggression in hopes of gaining some knowledge on dealing with it in a positive manner.
Biological theorists suggest that aggression is caused by some genetic or biological factor. Maxon (1998), a leading theorist proposed a theory that one's genes affect one or more types of aggression in mice, which may be applied to humans as a genetic explanation of aggression. Many researchers believe that aggression is caused by some genetic or biological factor, and thus believe that cases involving aggression should be treated chemically. These views of genetic or material essentialism claim that not only are physical characteristics of an individual determined by genetic information, but one's social roles, behaviors, and relationships also have a biological-genetic base (Kegley, 1996).
Growing evidence points to the conclusion that biological factors do predispose some individuals toward aggression. Through much research, it was found that people who suffer from reduced levels of serotonin are more likely proned to suffer from reduced abilities to control their aggressive impulses. These findings lend support to the view that biological factors do indeed play an important role in at least some forms of aggression.
There are those who believe that aggression is caused by having access to guns, being a victim of abuse at the hands of parents and peers, or by being immersed in a culture that glorifies violence and revenge. But the fact is that there isn't one cause. You need a particular environment imposed on a particular biology to turn a child into an aggressor. The dawning realization of the constant back-and-forth between nature and nurture has resurrected the search for the biological roots of violence (Harris, 1998). Childhood experiences appear to be especially powerful, because a child's brain is more malleable than that of an adult. A young brain is extra vulnerable to hurt in the first years of life. A child who suffers repeated abuse, neglect as well as terror experiences physical changes in his brain. The result is a child who shows impulsive aggression. A child who hits others when made fun of or put down. Other children can become unresponsive when exposed to violence. These children can many times become antisocial. One example of such a child is Kip Kinkel, who murdered both of his parents and injured some school classmates.
Opposingly, behaviorist theorists suggest that most behaviors originate through learning processes. Watson thought that people's behavior, whether good or bad could be explained by learning experiences (Nelson, Israel, 1997). In addition to a strong emphasis on learning and environment, Watson was committed to testing ideas by the experimental method (Nelson, Israel, 1997). The law of Effect contributed by E.L. Thorndike, states that behavior is shaped by its consequences. If the consequence is satisfying the behavior will be strengthened in the future; if it is uncomfortable the behavior will be weakened. Thorndike's claims were later substantiated by B. F. Skinner; another well respected leading theorist.
During the early years of a child's life, parents control the child's experiences of frustration, gratification, determine whether the child is reinforced for aggressive or non-aggressive behavior. Parents serve as models for their child to imitate. The parent who uses physical aggression in punishing his child is serving as an aggressive model. The child, through imitation, may be acquiring aggressive response patterns although he is seemingly being taught that aggression is bad. It is not surprising