“KICK 'EM WHEN THEY'RE DOWN”: Explanations of the Relationship Between Stress and Interpersonal Aggression and Violence

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The latest version of the frustration‐aggression hypothesis (here, FA) posits that any form of negative affect or distress is likely to increase the likelihood of aggression. Stressful life events could thus produce aggression and violence because they create negative affect. In contrast, the social interactionist (SI) approach interprets many acts of aggression as expressions of grievances and informal social control. Stressful life events cause people to behave in ways that lead others to attack them. This study examines these approaches using (1) an adult sample of ex‐criminal offenders, exmental patients, and the general population, and (2) longitudinal data obtained from a national sample of high school boys. The results suggest that being a target mediates the negative life‐events/aggression relationship, thus favoring SI over FA. Also, anger affects other forms of delinquency as strongly as it affects aggressive behavior, implying that some forms of delinquency, not usually associated with aggression, have aggressive goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalSociological Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1992


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science

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