11.07.2019 in Psychology

Aggressive, Antisocial Behaviour and Violence among Girls

In psychology and other social sciences aggression is defined as any behaviour that is found within members of the same species that has an intention of causing pain and harm to the others. Aggression takes many forms ranging from physical, psychological and mental. Consequently, antisocial behaviour can be defined as a destructive behaviour that is associated with either covert or overt hostile intentions towards other people in the society.  Aggressive and antisocial behaviours can be exhibited through deviant actions such as theft, disrespecting the authority, destroying of property and other maladaptive behaviours.  

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Although it is believed that boys are the main perpetuators of aggressive and antisocial behaviour in the society, the number of girls has been on the increase for the past few decades. This increase has drawn more reactions from researchers and other stake holders in the society in trying to understand the causes and motivation. Most of the reactions have led to a heated debate among the researchers on various issues pertaining to gradual increases in number of girls engaging in these maladaptive behaviors.

In order to iron out this difference in opinions and ideas, thorough research has been done to provide a clear picture on how the situation is perceived at the grass root level. Previous researches conducted failed to draw a clear line between men and women on issues pertaining to which gender is more affected with antisocial and aggressive behaviour. The research only focused on men and boys leaving out the integral   role played by women in the same. However, the information collected from a few sample researches on women, failed to give a comprehensive framework to draw firm conclusions, correlations and repercussions of aggressive behaviour (Perkowitz, 2003). Literature also failed to provide an empirical validity intervention design that could have assisted researches in developing a wide scope of understanding these phenomena.  

Rather than focusing on the gender difference on aggressive behaviour it would be imperative to shift our attention to the possible root causes of this trend. The attention should also aim at formulating a comprehensive model that will establish the in depth resources that are presumed to facilitate this trend. Aggressive and antisocial behaviour has both negative and positive implications to both an individual and others. To an individual it helps in expressing internal conflicts that have accumulated for a long time leading to stress and tension. Involvement in aggressive and antisocial behaviour helps in releasing tension and stress from the body. Girls engage in aggressive and antisocial behaviours differently as compared to boys.  While boys tend to express their emotional feeling through physical aggressive behaviour such as fights and bullying, girls express it indirectly through engaging in things such as backbiting, disclosure of relationships and use of abusive words.  Girls prefer not to be involved in aggressive and antisocial behaviours directly. For example when a woman wants to kill her husband she prefers to hire an assassin to execute the act on her behalf. This concept creates a distinctive gender relationship on expression of aggressive and antisocial behaviour.

Researchers and theorist have investigated come up with various theories that try to explain the causes of aggressive and antisocial behaviors in girls.

Social-cultural theories

Cultural factors play a major role in predisposition of aggressive and antisocial behaviour among the girls. Some cultural practises have either encouraged or discourage the occurrence of deviant behaviours among the girls. In every community there are norms and values that regulate how people should behave in certain situations and in other social processes.  Every member of the community is obliged to abide by these rules and norms.  Failure to abide by these rules means that one must be punished according to the sanctions laid down by the society. Severity in punishment tends to inhibit the occurrence of deviant behaviour whereas rewarding good behaviours tends to maintain the status quo. On the other hand if the punishment presented is too severe and contravenes the morals of the society it may lead to rebellion from members of the community. Other cultural practices play a role in marginalizing a girl child. In most of our society a boy child is perceived to be more dominate than the girl child. This gender inequality perspective has made the girl child to engage in aggressive behaviour with the aim of fighting for her rights and social recognition from the society.

Media has also played in major role in perpetuating aggressive and antisocial behaviour among girls. Most media station especially television exposes the girl child to violet movies and films that probe them to engage in aggressive behaviour.  Advancement in technology has also made it possible for youths to have access to vase information from the internet that perpetuate aggressive and antisocial behaviours either directly or indirectly.

Family environment: Aggressive and antisocial behaviour can be shaped on the context of the family coerciveness. Families that are linked with close ties between parents and their children tend to uphold good morals that are in turn inculcated in to children. Children learn to uphold the good morals of the society by obeying and abiding to norms and values of the society, hence decreasing the occurrence of aggressive and antisocial behaviour in future. On the other hand a family that is characterised with wrangles and fights among parents makes children to develop an aggressive behaviour as a way of releasing stress. For example if the father keeps on beating the mother while drunk, children learn to express their emotional feelings through fights   rather than solving the issue amicably. It is also more likely that a girl who has been brought up in such a family will engage in aggressive and antisocial behaviour compared to one from a stable family. The family environment has a great influence in enhancing the involvement of a girl child in violet and aggressive behaviours.

Biological perspective

Genetics:  Genetic compositions of our bodies influence how we interact with others in the environment and how we react to different changes in our bodies. It has been found out that predisposition of certain behaviours are as a result of inherited genes from parents to their children. For example those parents who are high tempered tend to pass temper genes to their children which in turn influence them to engage in aggressive and antisocial behaviour while interacting with others.

Brain: Biologically some parts of our brain have been found to contribute immensely to development of aggressive and antisocial behaviour among the girls. The prefrontal cortex part of the brain helps in controlling serotonin which is a neurotransmitter responsible to maintain our emotional state.  Also reduced activity of the prefrontal part of the brain especially its medial and orbital frontal portions have been associated with violet antisocial behaviour in man. Damage of this part of brain can also lead to aggressive and antisocial behaviour.

Darwin also advances the socio-biological explanations of behavior where resources are limited and its survival for the fittest. Therefore those who have better mechanisms are the ones who are likely to attain the resources. In certain instances the means involves violent and antisocial behavior and those who are left out also employ the same to attain their goals

Hormone and neurotransmitters: As a girl develops there are many changes that take place in her body.  Hormones are released into the body that initiate body and emotional changes.  In women the major hormone that has been found to have great influence on behaviour is the Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).  During adolescence, there is more production of oestrogens and progesterone in girls which in turn influence the release of this hormone. Therefore the release of dehydroepiandrosterone contributes to involvement of girls in aggressive and antisocial behaviour. The alternating emotional changes lead to stress that is most likely to compel one to indulge in antisocial and aggressive behaviours. Serotonin which is a neurotransmitter is produced in the brain and has a negative correlation to aggression. When there is more production of serotonin it will lead to aggressive behaviour and vice versa. Research indicates that more production of vasopressin in the anterior part of hypothalamus will lead to an increase in aggressive and antisocial behaviour.

Strain Theories

Strain theory states that there is a conflict between cultural goals and the means of a achieving these goals. Members of the society are allowed to acquire these cultural goals but in real sense there are no equal chances to exploit their potentials. Other ways are developed to achieve the goals. Girls are expected to be always presentable and adorn themselves modestly, their needs are many but there are limited resources and opportunities for them therefore they will engage in prostitution and other deviant behaviors so that they will attain these needs.

Trait theory

Trait theory explains human behaviour from a different perspective. The theory does not attribute the influence of environmental factors in developing aggressive and antisocial behaviour in girls. Eysenk’s mentions that people exhibit the kind of behaviour that is linked to the characters that they possess. The biological and physical factors contribute substantially to one’s character. For example those girls who inherit a trait of extraversion from her parents will be outgoing and social compared to one who inherits a trait of introversion. Traits define who real we are in a social setting.

In conclusion aggression and other antisocial behaviours are contributed by nature- nurture factors. The behaviours also have the underlying functional meaning to an individual and the society at large.

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