<<

. 74
( 115 .)



>>

Figure 10.3 Figure thoughts and
(crankiness) incident
10.3. GAAM model behavioral script
explanation for heat effect.




Aggression is one behavior that is developed early in life via socialization and
persists into adulthood (Huesmann, Eron, Lefkowitz, & Walder, 1984). In fact, a long-
term study of aggressive behavior found that children who were rated by their peers
as aggressive at age 8 were likely to be aggressive as adults, as measured by self-
ratings, ratings by participantsʼ spouses, and citations for criminal and traf¬c offenses
(Huesmann et al., 1984).
The stability of aggression over time applies to both males and females (Pulkkinen
& Pitkanen, 1993). However, the age at which early aggressiveness predicts later aggres-
sive behavior differs for males and females. In one study, researchers investigated the
relationship between Swedish childrenʼs aggressiveness (measured by teacher ratings) at
two ages (10 and 13) and crime rates through age 26 (Stattin & Magnusson, 1989). For
males, aggressiveness ratings at both age levels were signi¬cant predictors of serious
crimes committed later in life. However, for females, only aggressiveness ratings at age
13 predicted later criminal behavior. For males and females, early aggressiveness was
most closely related to crimes of the “acting out” type, such as violent crimes against
property and other people, rather than drug offenses, traf¬c offenses, or crimes com-
mitted for personal gain (Stattin & Magnusson, 1989).
Taken together, these studies show a clear pattern of early aggression being signi¬-
cantly related to aggression later in life (as measured by crime statistics). Although there
is some difference between males and females (at least in terms of the age at which the
relationship between early aggression and later aggression begins), it is clear that the
relationship between childhood aggression and adulthood aggression is true for both
males and females.
What happens during these early years to increase aggression among some children?
In the sections that follow, we look at how socialization relates to the development of
aggressive behavior patterns.

The Socialization of Aggression
social learning theory Unlike the biological approaches to aggression, Albert Banduraʼs (1973) social learn-
A theory that social behavior ing theory maintains that aggression is learned, much like any other human behavior.
is acquired through direct Aggression can be learned through two general processes: direct reinforcement and pun-
reinforcement or punishment
ishment, and observational learning or learning by watching others. Often, individuals
of behavior and observational
who commit violent acts grew up in a neighborhood where violence was commonplace.
learning.
These individuals saw that aggression was a method of getting oneʼs way. They prob-
observational learning
ably even tried it for themselves and obtained some goal. If aggression pays off, one
Learning through watching
is then more likely to use aggressive behavior again, learning through the process of
what people do and whether
direct reinforcement. If the aggression fails, or one is punished for using aggression,
they are rewarded or
aggression is less likely to be used in the future.
punished and then imitating
that behavior.
Chapter 10 Interpersonal Aggression 375

Although the processes of direct reinforcement and punishment are important, social
learning theory maintains that its primary channel is through observational learning, or
modeling. This occurs when, for example, a young man standing in a playground sees
a person get money by beating up another person. People quickly learn that aggression
can be effective. By watching others, they learn new behaviors, or they have existing
behaviors encouraged or inhibited.
Bandura and his colleagues (Bandura, Ross, & Ross, 1963) provided powerful
evidence in support of the transmission of aggression through observational learning.
They showed that children who watch an aggressive model can learn new patterns of
behavior and will display them when given the opportunity to do so. Bandura and his
colleagues designed an ingenious experiment to test this central principle of social
learning theory.
In this experiment, children were exposed to a model who behaved aggressively
against a “Bobo doll,” a large, in¬‚atable, plastic punching doll. The model engaged in
some speci¬c behavior, such as kicking and punching the doll while screaming, “Sock him
in the nose” (Bandura, Ross, & Ross, 1961). After the child observed the model engage
in this behavior, he or she was taken to a room with several toys. After a few minutes,
the experimenter went in and told the child that he or she could not play with the toys
because they were being saved for another child (this was to frustrate the child). The child
was then taken to another room with several other toys, including the Bobo doll.
Bandura performed a number of variations on this basic situation. In one experiment,
for example, the children saw the model being rewarded, being punished, or receiving
no consequences for batting around the Bobo doll (Bandura, 1965). In another, children
observed a live model, a ¬lmed model, or a cartoon model (Bandura, Ross, & Ross,
1963). In all the variations, the dependent variable was the same”the number of times
the child imitated the aggressive behaviors the model displayed.
Bandura found that when the children saw aggression being rewarded, they showed
more imitative responses than when it was punished. Live models evoked the most imi-
tative responses, followed by ¬lm models and then cartoon models, but any aggressive
model increased imitative responses over the nonaggressive or no-model conditions.
Exposure to the aggressive model elicited other aggressive responses that the child had
not seen from the model (Bandura et al., 1963). Apparently, an aggressive model can
motivate a child to behave aggressively in new, unmodeled ways.
Bandura (1973) concluded that observational learning can have the following effects.
First, a child can learn totally new patterns of behavior. Second, a childʼs behavior
can be inhibited (if the model is punished) or disinhibited (if the model is rewarded).
Disinhibition in this context means that a child already knows how to perform a socially
unacceptable behavior (such as hitting or kicking) but is not doing it for a reason. Seeing
a model rewarded removes inhibitions against performing the behavior. Bandura calls
this process vicarious reinforcement. And third, a socially desirable behavior can be
enhanced by observing models engaged in prosocial activities.
Banduraʼs ¬ndings have been observed across cultures. McHan (1985) replicated
Banduraʼs basic experiment in Lebanon. Children were exposed either to a ¬lm showing
a child playing aggressively with a bobo doll or to a ¬lm showing a boy playing non-
aggressively with some toys. McHan found that the children who were exposed to the
aggressive ¬lm were more aggressive in a subsequent play situation. They also exhibited
more novel aggressive behaviors than children who had seen the nonaggressive ¬lm.
These results exactly replicate Banduraʼs original ¬ndings and offer additional support
for the social learning approach to aggression.
Social Psychology
376

We have established that exposing children to ¬lmed aggressive models con-
tributes to increased physical aggression. Is there any evidence that exposure to vio-
lence in naturalistic settings relates to levels of aggression? According to a study by
Gorman-Smith and Tolan (1998), the answer to this question is yes. Gorman-Smith
and Tolan investigated the relationship between exposure to community violence and
aggression in a sample of minority males growing up in high-crime neighborhoods.
Their results showed that exposure to violence in the community was related to an
increase in aggression and feelings of depression. They also reported that the increase
in aggression is speci¬c to exposure to violence in the neighborhood and not to general
levels of stress. Finally, Gorman-Smith and Tolan reported that the number of people
who are exposed to community violence does not relate signi¬cantly to parental dis-
cipline practices but may relate more strongly to peer in¬‚uences and other commu-
nityrelated factors.

Aggressive Scripts: Why and How They Develop
One mechanism believed to underlie the relationship between observation and aggres-
aggressive script sion is the formation of aggressive scripts during the socialization process. Scripts are
An internalized representation internalized representations of how an event should occur. Another term for a script
of an event that leads to is event schema. You may, for example, have a script about what goes on at a college
increased aggression and the
basketball game: You go to the arena, sit in your seat, and cheer for your team. Such
tendency to interpret social
scripts in¬‚uence how people behave in a given social situation
interactions aggressively.
Exposing a child to aggressive models”parents, peers, television characters,
video games”during socialization contributes to the development of aggressive
scripts (Huesmann, 1986; Huesmann & Malamuth, 1986). These scripts, in turn, lead
to increased aggression and a tendency to interpret social interactions aggressively. And
they can persist, greatly in¬‚uencing levels of aggression in adulthood.
Aggressive scripts develop through three phases (Huesmann & Malamuth, 1986).
During the acquisition and encoding phase, the script is ¬rst learned and placed into the
childʼs memory. Much like a camcorder, a child who sees violence”or is reinforced
directly for violence”records the violent scenes into memory. A script will be most
easily encoded into memory if the child believes the script-related behavior is socially
acceptable (Huesmann, 1988). When one grows up in a violent neighborhood, for
example, one will undoubtedly acquire and encode an aggressive script based on his
or her experiences.
The stored script is strengthened and elaborated on during the maintenance phase.
Strengthening and elaboration occur each time a child thinks about an aggressive event,
watches an aggressive television show, plays aggressively, or is exposed to violence from
other sources (Huesmann, 1988; Huesmann & Malamuth, 1986). Research shows, for
example, that children who are exposed to high levels of violence in their communities
tend to develop aggressive behaviors (Gorman-Smith & Tolan, 1998).
Initially, during the retrieval and emission phase, the internalized script guides the
childʼs behavior whenever a situation similar to the one in the script occurs. If the child
has watched too many Clint Eastwood movies, for example, competition with another
child for a toy may lead to a “make my day” scenario. The script may suggest to young
Clint that competition is best resolved using aggression. Often aggressive behavior cer-
tainly ¬ts with this model. Those who are exposed to violence on a day-to-day basis and
feel threatened may turn to violence as a way to resolve con¬‚icts. Aggressive scripts
are played out to their bloody conclusions.
Chapter 10 Interpersonal Aggression 377


The Role of the Family in Developing Aggressive Behaviors social-interactional model
A model suggesting that
Although children are exposed to many models, the family provides the most immedi- antisocial behavior arises
ate environment and is the most in¬‚uential agent of socialization. It makes sense, then, early in life and is the result
that aggressive behavior is closely linked with family dynamics. of poor parenting, leading
a child to develop conduct
One developmental model proposed to explain the evolution of aggressive behavior
problems that affect peer
is the social-interactional model (Patterson, DeBaryshe, & Ramsey, 1989). According
relations and academic
to this model, antisocial behavior (such as aggression) arises early in life as a result
performance.
of poor parenting, such as harsh, inconsistent discipline and poor monitoring of chil-
dren. Poor parenting leads to a childʼs behavior problems, which in turn contribute
to rejection by peers and academic problems in school. Such children often become
associated with deviant peer groups in late childhood and adolescence. In many cases,
delinquency results.
Figure 10.4 The
Aggressive Parenting social-interaction model
of antisocial behavior.
Key to the social-interactional model is the disciplinary style adopted by parents and
According to this model,
the parent-child interaction style that results. Some parents have an antisocial parent-
antisocial parenting gives
ing style, according to the model. Several factors contribute to such parental behavior.
rise to disrupted family
As shown in Figure 10.4, these factors include antisocial behavior and poor family
management and an increase
management by their own parents, family demographics, and family stressors. Parentsʼ
in a child™s antisocial
antisocial behavior contributes to disruptions in their family management practices and,
behavior. Antisocial parenting
ultimately, to antisocial behavior from the child.
relates to three factors: family
Parents who fall into a harmful cycle of parenting generally rely heavily on the
demographics, grandparental
use of power or harsh measures designed to control the childʼs behavior. They also use
traits, and family stressors.
physical and/or verbal punishment. Do these techniques encourage children to act aggres-
From Patterson, DeBaryshe, and Ramsey (1989).




Family
demographics:
income,
neighborhood,
ethnic group




Grandparental Parental traits: Disrupted
traits: antisocial antisocial Childʼs antisocial
family
behavior, poor behavior, behavior
management
family susceptibility to practices
management stressors




Family stressors:
unemployment,
marital conflict,
divorce
Social Psychology
378

sively themselves? The answer is a ¬rm yes! Although parents use power assertion and
punishment with their children to make them comply, research shows that it actually
reduces childrenʼs compliance (Crockenberg & Litman, 1986). This noncompliance
may, in turn, cause parents to adopt an even more coercive disciplinary style.
Straus conducted a series of correlational studies (summarized in Straus, 1991)
on the relationship between the use of physical punishment and aggressive behav-
ior. Straus obtained information from adolescents and adults about the frequency
with which they experienced physical punishment while they were children. Straus
reported, ¬rst, that almost 90% of U.S. parents of children aged 3 to 4 used some
form of physical punishment. The rate of physical punishment declined slowly after
age 4 but remained at a relatively high level”60% or above”until the child was 13
years old. Thus, physical punishment as a parenting technique is widespread in our
society.
Straus also found that as the frequency of physical punishment used during social-
ization increased, so did the rate of physical aggression used outside the family later
on in adulthood. More ominously, as the frequency of physical punishment increased,
so did homicide rates. The negative effects of punishment apply to other cultures as
well. One study conducted in Singapore found that parental use of physical punishment
(caning or slapping) was related to higher levels of aggression among preschool-aged
children (Sim & Ong, 2005). Other results from this study showed that caning by fathers
increased aggression among both male and female children. However, there was a cross-
sex relationship for fathers and mothers who slapped their children. Father slapping had
the greatest effect on female children, whereas mother slapping had the greatest effect on
male children. Finally, physical punishment is signi¬cantly associated with a variety of
negative outcomes, including aggressive behavior, lower levels of moral internalization
of behavior, degraded parent-child relationships, and poorer mental health (Gershoff,
2002). The only positive behavior associated with physical punishment is immediate
compliance on the part of the child (Gershoff, 2002).
Physical punishment is not the only form of parental behavior associated with
heightened aggression. Parents also subject their children to verbal and symbolic
aggression, which can include these behaviors (Vissing, Straus, Gelles, & Harrop,
1991, p. 228):
• Insulting or swearing at the child.
• Sulking or refusing to talk about a problem.
• Stomping out of the room or house.
• Doing or saying something to spite the child.

<<

. 74
( 115 .)



>>