Nightly on the news, you see stories about multiple instances of violence: killings, shootings, murders and such. In the school settings, kids get bullied on the playground or even in the classroom. All of these are forms of aggression, but does anyone stop and think why we are that way? The answer is found in the classic debate in Psychology, Nature vs. Nurture. Aggression is caused by learned behavior, not through genetics.
There are two sides of this debate, Nature and Nurture. Nature refers to something that you’re born with and are not able to change. People that follow this are called Nativists. They believe that the traits that you have are passed down through genetics. Nurture means that your personality traits are based on your environment. For example, the conditions under which you were raised. Another factor can be your interactions with people and experiences that happened in childhood. The people that support this idea are called Empiricists (Butler). I side with the Empiricists, that you are able to become a certain way because of your environment. The idea of aggression within Nature vs. Nurture was first tested in an experiment, The Bobo Doll Experiment.
There have been multiple studies that test the concept of Nature vs. Nurture. In the Bobo Doll Experiment done in 1961 by Albert Bandura, he wanted to study if aggression is able to be acquired through observation. After the study, he found out that his hypothesis was right, that aggression can be learned through observing. The children that were exposed to seeing an adult in that study being aggressive were aggressive when they were left with the Bobo Doll. Children that were exposed to nice toys, like teacups and dolls were not aggressive towards Bobo. Even though this experiment was done over 50 years ago, it is still valid. There is one thing that is a flaw in this experiment. Some of the kids could have already been afraid of clowns, so they might act more aggressively towards it.
Based on my observations, the aggressive personality trait is related to nurture. Some of the traits that people have are based on behavior they have seen or learned from other people. As well, the way that you are raised can be a factor. If you grew up in a house with violence, more than likely you will grow up seeing that as acceptable behavior.
Nativists have a valid point when they talk about Nature. The thing is, people do not tend to be the same person all of their lives. Through exposure, your personality traits could change. Also, you more than likely will not have the same friends. You may gain and lose friends over time.
Genetically, Aggression can be viewed as a trait. “particular gene variants of Pet-1 are associated with excessive anxiety or violent activity in humans, then test to detect these variants might be useful for early diagnosis of people who may be at risk for these abnormal
behaviors” (USA Today) There are more important traits than anxiety that we need to worry about such as Depression, Schophenia, and Multiple Personality Disorder. These have underlying tones of aggression, but are not passed down genetically.
Comparing two studies, the Bobo Doll Experiment and another unnamed experiment, involving families, investigated the Nature vs. Nurture question. Rana and Molhortra mentioned a study by Gauze, Bukowski, Sipolla (1996) that found “parental rejection leads to aggressive behavior in children”. That is understandable behavior, because the kids are not getting the attention they wanted. Since they are not getting the attention they wanted it could be an act of rebellion, or even how they cope with it. In the Bobo Doll experiment, the children were not with their parents, but role models of the same and opposite sex. With parents and children, their relationships can affect behavior, including aggression.
Aggression can also stem from children ‘s relationships with their parents. According to Sengsavand and Krettenaur, “Similar to aggression, parent-child relationships can be a major predictor of many developmental domains” Parenting can play a huge part in someone ‘s personality and upbringing. If there is a lack of parenting skills, it will end up showing in their children ‘s behavior. “Parents may directly or indirectly “teach” their children to interpret ambiguous social information in a hostile, relationally aggressive manner” I agree with this, that children are a product of their own environment. Another place that children can learn from is from peers and classmates.
The area as well where kids can learn aggression is from their peers and in the school setting.
“For age, results revealed that younger children reported significantly higher aggressive intentions than older children.” (Charters and Duffy) Children may not be aggressive at all, but are doing so to fit in with their friends. Berkowtiz claimed “aggression is not linked to brain structures for aggressive instinct, and that aggression is provoked by external stimuli.” (qtd. in Ferguson) Aggressiveness differs between the sexes, and there are different ways that they deal with it. “For Boys the relation between the classroom environment and school aggression was explained in part by their influence this environment exerts.” (Lopez et al.) Through gender roles, boys are conditioned to be more aggressive and physical than girls. When kids get a cut, boys are told that they just need to get up, rub some dirt in it and get up. If a girl gets hurt, they comfort her and tell her it ‘s okay.
Nurture makes more sense than Nature. It reinforces behavior, and emotionally stable children are non-aggressive. Studies show that we would not be the people we are today without positive outside influences. The environment that one grows up is ultimately the number one factor dealing with the person ‘s identity, personality and aggressive behavior. As they say, the apple does not fall far from the tree.