Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Theories of Aggression

The three theories of aggression...


I am a student currently on my first year of a degree in Sport and Exercise Coaching. As part of the principles of human behaviour module on this course I have the task of creating a coaching resource on a principle of my choice. Therefore I have established this blog on aggression in sports coaching. Throughout this blog I aim to provide an in depth and thorough coaching resource for anyone interested in aggression in sport. Through innovation, creativity and knowledge of the subject I hope this is of use to coaches and athletes who have difficulties controlling aggressive behaviours. By presenting the theory behind the principle of aggression, it will give a rudimentary understanding of the topic area to allow a comprehensive insight when exploring the strategies to control the aggressive behaviours. Firstly I will look at the three concepts of aggression, these are instinct theory, frustration-aggression theory and finally social learning theory, applying this in sporting situations, where applicable, to ensure a detailed, methodical understanding of the theories. I am then going to study the different types of aggression and the circumstances under which these are prevalent. These include the different types of aggression, in terms of hostile and instrumental aggression, based on the conditions in which the aggression is executed and the intention behind the aggressive act. Also taking into account the critical difference between aggression and assertion. After establishing why the need to control aggression is significant for both a coach and a performer I will look at well documented ways that have been suggested and researched to control aggressive behaviour.

Instinct Theory:

Weinberg & Gould (2007) and Jarvis (2006) propose the idea that the psychological instinct theory is a concept of aggression that is based on the genetic pre-disposition of athletes to exhibit aggression behaviour. Cox (1998) states that this theory was researched by Sigmund Freud (1950) who suggests that aggression is an innate behaviour, as opposed to a learnt behaviour, that is an instinctive drive essential for survival. Gadsdon (2001) introduces the idea of Freud’s theory and its popularity in the twentieth century. Gadsdon (2001) continues that Freud (1950) suggests the existence of a death instinct, Thanatos, which motivates people towards self-destruction. In conflict with this is the life instinct, Eros. As a result of the two conflicting instincts, the aggressive energy created needs to be resolved consequently it is turned outwards onto others. Gadsdon (2001) states that Freud’s research was supported by Lorenz (1974) who agreed that aggression was innate but argued that this is only triggered by specific environmental stimuli. Jarvis (2006) continues that aggression can be released through competing in sport as it is cathartic; therefore instinct theory states that aggression is reduced within society.

Frustration-aggression theory:

Frustration-aggression is another theory behind aggression. Kamlesh (2011) suggests that aggression is a general consequence of frustration. Sanderson (2010) suggests that in frustration-aggression theory all aggression is caused by frustration and all frustration leads to a craving to aggress. Sanderson (2010) continues that aggression caused by frustration leads to an aggressive desire towards the object of the frustration, in sporting terms this is often regarding other players, managers or officials. When the object of frustration is unavailable, any aggression is transferred to other available people or objects, this is known as displacement. Jarvis (2006) suggests that frustration builds up when a route to a goal is blocked. If catharsis does not occur then an overload of frustration leads to aggression. Kamlesh (2011) stresses that the frustration-aggression theory is down to environmental stimuli and for aggression to continually occur; cues that facilitate aggression must be present. An example of this theory is a football player who is repeatedly and unfairly being called offside by the officials. This is blocking the player’s route to goal, for the team to score a goal, resulting in frustration. If presented with an opportunity the frustration may lead to an aggressive act by the player to act as catharsis.
This video shows an ice hockey brawl as an example of frustration leading to aggression in sport.
Social Learning Theory:
The final theory of aggression is social learning theory. Jarvis (2006) and Knutson (2009) state that Bandura (1973) proposes all behaviour is learnt through imitation and reinforcement. Sun (2008) states that social learning theory focuses on how an individual’s actions and behaviours are altered by the observation of another’s internal and external conditioning and reinforcement. Sun (2008) continues that Bandura (1973) argues the importance of vicarious experiences, witnessing other’s behaviours that are positively reinforced, that influence the aggression of an individual. Corey (2009) and Jarvis (2006) suggest that athletes can witness aggression at elite levels which are positively reinforced with praise or that go without negative punishment. Therefore these actions are likely to be emulated by the athlete in order to gain positive reinforcement. An example of this would be a child that witnesses an aggressive act in ice hockey that may lead to a team scoring or preventing the other team from doing so. This is positively reinforced by praise from team mates and cheering from the crowd. The child will then repeat this behaviour in order to gain similar positive reinforcement.

Aggressive behaviour in elite sport highlighted in the media.

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