Aggression, defined as behavior with the intent of causing harm, takes many forms. These actions are expressed directly and indirectly by both sexes across a wide array of situations. This paper is concerned with the forms everyday aggression takes, as per the studies conducted by Richardson et al.
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A research group led by Richardson has addressed the questions of who is likely to cause aggression, in what ways the latter presents, and what characteristics, experiences, or events are likely to influence the aggressive response (South Richardson 220). The research focused on everyday aggression, with the targets being family members, romantic partners, friends, or coworkers.
Aggression is not to be confused with assertiveness or ambition, as it is an intentional behavior aimed at causing personal harm. Directly aggressive behavior involves open confrontation via words or actions. Indirect aggression, on the other hand, consists of damaging the victim’s possessions or causing damage to reputation through rumors; the victim’s relationships could also be disrupted, this is viewed as relational aggression. Passive-aggressive actions comprise romantic partners’ refusal to answer phone calls, the so-called silent treatment, or friends ignoring one another: another example of nondirect aggression.
The participants viewed themselves as more likely to use indirect forms of aggression; however, the choice of behavior depends on the individuals’ backgrounds, experiences, and gender. The societal gender norms present males as the more dominating type, likely to use aggression as a means of gaining rewards. While “aggressiveness is a central aspect of a definition of masculinity,” women are socialized to shun it as a gender-inappropriate expression (South Richardson 221). The findings demonstrate that, although males use direct violence and sexual aggression more frequently, there is no sizable difference in the reported use of indirect aggression amongst the sexes.
People of all age groups are likely to resort to indirect aggression, those with more extensive social connections possessing more significant means of its perpetration. The social network consists of an individual and everyone they are connected with, be it friends, coworkers, or family. Wide social networks, thus, facilitate the rapid spread of specific forms of indirect aggression, such as gossip, false stories, or rumors. The less connected the peers are, the more isolated the individual is; therefore, lesser network density acts as a protection against these kinds of attacks. Additionally, the study presents a method of examining the network density via questioning. The findings show that those who report being members of a denser network, specifically male college students, exhibit a greater degree of indirect aggression (South Richardson 222). Thus, it can be seen that higher network density discourages direct aggression, as close ties provide more opportunities for its indirect form. A different study using an index of knowingness has found that a large network where peers are less acquainted with one another creates more opportunities for gossip and rumors, as identities are protected, and the spread of false information is ensured.
Testing the hypothesis that males would be unlikely to exhibit aggression towards females, perceiving them as weaker and less threatening opponents, another study has found that men are more likely to resort to directly aggressive behavior towards members of their sex, while females are indiscriminate in their indirect aggression. As to the relationship to the target, both sexes are more likely to engage in open confrontation with a sibling or romantic partner and use indirect aggression towards friends.
The studies summarized above distinguish between direct and indirect aggression, finding the females more likely to use the latter. The concept of social network density facilitating rumors and gossip spread is addressed, allowing for an application of an index of knowingness. The targets of everyday aggression are identified as individuals close to the perpetrator; the form depends on the nature of the relationship. The findings present an opportunity for addressing the question of the nature and extent of harm caused by the phenomena, emotional trauma is predicted as such. However, the researchers require more data to further explore the definition of aggression as concerning its effects and the intentions behind it.
South Richardson, Deborah. “Everyday Aggression Takes Many Forms.” Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol. 23 no. 3, 2014, pp. 220-224.