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In the age of violent video games and fight scene filled movies, parents are often worried that their child’s behaviour is increasingly aggressive. And while aggression may be an essential survival mechanism, increased frequency of these behaviours may lead to it becoming maladaptive. Understanding what this aggression looks like and what the underlying cause of it is can be the key for parents to deal with it effectively.
Aggressive outburst in children can take numerous forms. It can be physical and include hitting, kicking or even biting. Alternatively, it can involve verbal outbursts, tantrums, and attempts to use violence or threats as means to an end. In older children, especially females, aggression can be more invisible and will involve manipulation. Most of the time these aggressive behaviours are a consequence of children’s frustration and inability to deal with emotions correctly and are expected. However, when they become frequent or part of their behavioural pattern, these behaviours can be termed as aggression. This aggression can either be proactive or reactive. Proactive aggression refers to those aggressive behaviours that are performed in order to achieve some personal gain, while reactive aggression is performed in response to a perceived threat.
Biological Causes: Being aggressive is one of the innate tendencies of any human being and is an essential survival mechanism. In the required circumstances, many will resort to aggression. Therefore a lot of aggression stem from biological causes. While research suggests that girls and boys are equally aggressive, girls employ relational aggression strategies while boys are more overtly aggressive. Studies done on twins have also shown a salient link between genetic factors and aggression. The child’s temperament and emotional traits, hormone levels as well as prenatal intrauterine environment can also influence how aggressive a child is.
Environmental Factors: Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory proves that aggressive behaviours are especially modelled by observation. Family, friends and those in the child’s immediate environment have a heavy influence on the kinds of behaviours the child picks up. Not only do children witness these behaviours and learn from them but also focus on the outcomes and repercussions of these behaviours. Furthermore, when children get what they want by engaging in aggressive behaviours, they are more likely to continue these behaviours. Children are susceptible to aggression by violent media and television. Pre-schoolers are most likely to be impacted by exposure to this sort of content.