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Agression: Men vs Women

  1. Sep 23, 2003 #1


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    I'd prefer an answer to this from someone who is actually a psychologist (not a psychologist wannabe). If none are here then info from anyone else will be appreciated

    Take a large random sample of men and a large random sample of women (From American society if that matters). Is there any research which has compared the average levels of aggressive behaviour between these two samples?

    Or the short version of this question - Is there evidence that men are more aggressive then women.

    Aggression in the sense of violence.

    If there is a difference is there a breakdown as to why? Is it
    inate/biological or is it cultural?


  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 24, 2003 #2
    I am not a psychologist, and I never read anything about such research, but what I observe during school seems that males are more agressive. It is most likely innate/biological.
  4. Sep 26, 2003 #3
    I too am not a psychologist, but men are more aggressive due to inheirent genetics. Testosterone levels combined with traditional male roles as the dominant sex (ie hunter gatherer) make them the more aggressive sex. I unfortunately don't have statistics or studies handy to back it up, but I'm certain they exist.
  5. Nov 19, 2003 #4
    Aggression is not about psychology, it is about millions of years of evolution and of course - testosterone.

  6. Nov 20, 2003 #5


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    I hate it when people offer uniform explanations for spotty data.

    Aside from questions obout your evolution explanation (why was it adaptive?), this asumes the extreme feminist position that all men are rapists, only some of them haven't had their chance yet.

    If you do not accept this how do you account for the many men who do not batter their wives?

    And from personal experience of a 35 year happy marriage, physical aggression of women on men occurs too!
  7. Nov 20, 2003 #6


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    You realize this a loaded question?

    I don't think alot of psycologists are surfing the physics forums so I'll be the next best thing. I have had the rudiments of psychiatric and psycology training and medicine requires dealing with many of the psycological aspects of physical disease processes.

    Let's start of with statistics.

    Serial killers, probably the pinnacle of unchecked, violent, psycopathic behavior are almost always men.

    Emergency room docs will tell you that women are the majority victims of domestic physical violence. Although I agree with this , I also think it is a self reporting bias because male victims of violence by female partners are probably too ashamed to seek medical help. Victims of psycological domestic abuse are probably evenly distributed among men and women.

    Ever see a woman's reaction when her child is in danger? Probably more viscious and aggresive than any man. Ask any Vietnam vet (my father included) who saw hand to hand combat with women who were told by the VCs that the Americans were there to kill them and their children. It would chill your spine and obliterate the idea that women are not capable of just as much violence if their child is in danger.
    The Russians also encountered such visciousness against the Afghani women. (I did some field work medicine there years ago in medical school.)

    Does testosterone make you more aggressive and violent? Depends on the situation. Mother nature has provided us with a natural experiment in the form of women with hyperandrogen syndromes due to many different diseases (ie: congenital adrenal hyperplasia, etc. etc. where they make alot more testosterone than the average woman.) I don't have the studies off hand but many are "aggressive" in the traditional sense of committing violent crimes, team sports etc. etc.
    However, my beef with it is that if these women commit crimes, policemen aren't saavy enough to recognize the physical stigmata of hyper androgen syndromes so these studies I looked at were too small in numbers and methodology was poor and non specific.

    Got to go but will try to get some links late.
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2003
  8. Nov 20, 2003 #7
    Why is it adaptive, hmmmmmmm let me think - maybe b/c females raised children and men went out and captured food.

    What does aggression have to do with rapist - studies have shown that elevated testosterone increases aggression only when provoked.

    And I am sorry, that your wife beats you.

  9. Nov 21, 2003 #8


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    Here are some links on animal studies pointing away from testosterone as the singular or most important factor behind male aggressive behavior. One discusses a suppression gene that controls nitric oxide and the other relates to estrogen receptors whose characteristics determine aggression rather than testosterone levels.



    still looking for links for the hyperandrogen syndromes.
  10. Nov 29, 2003 #9
    Re: Re: Agression: Men vs Women

  11. Nov 29, 2003 #10


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    i would agree agression most often occurs in men then women, but as far as murders, what about the cases of women killing their children?
  12. Nov 29, 2003 #11


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    That's what happens after working a 36 hour straight! Also english is not my first or second language so my spelling has always been horrible. Didn't realize there would be a spelling check in the physics forum! Good thing I wasn't a liberal arts major.

    Kerrie, as for women killing their children, let's not forget men kill them as well. But you are right, as a mother , I can't understand how that happens. The famous case of the woman in Texas who killed her 5? kids, I remember vaguely, it was a woman who had not taken her psychiatric medicines and the "devil" had told her or she felt she was sparing them from the devil. Can't recollect the specifics but you get the gist. I don't know if these cases are representative of aggression or just psycotic delusions and the children just got in the way. (There is of course the more famous post partum depressions and child killings associated with some of these cases, but that is a whole different topic.)

    so true as to how much of it is socially or genetically/hormonally conditioned? I don't think the answer will ever be a yes or no.
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2003
  13. Nov 29, 2003 #12
    I am not a psychiatrist/psychologist nor am I a social scientist, but I would like to add my own two cents worth on this issue.

    Personally, I do not know of any evidence that men are "necessarily" more aggressive than women - both in research and in my personal observations.

    The testosterone bit doesn't make sense to me. If the mere fact that males have testosterone makes them more aggressive, why is that not reflected in the animal kingdom? In most predatory species, the males and the females share in the hunt(wolves, felines, whales, dolphins, bears, etc. to name a few predatory mammals). In fact in the lion kingdom, only the females hunt while the male spends its time sleeping about 20 hours a day (now that's an aggressive male). Even among prey, the females are more likely to stand and fight to defend its young than a male. I point this out because you did specify "aggression in the sense of violence" and all males in the mammal kingdom have testosterone therefore, testosterone does not seem to be the major factor in my opinion.

    Moving to the human social structure, men are clearly given more aggressive roles. Men are the soldiers, the fighters, the high impact sport athletes. Men also rule the world and often play the dominant role in society as seen in our upbringing, media, and social structure. Historically, women on the other hand have been given the more submissive role in society - although this is changing. If one examines cultures, you will notice that in some cultures women are less submissive than others. Why the difference? I believe this is highly based on culture not genes or sex. All of this affects the male and female agression levels in our society.

    But despite the cultural difference, I still see some women showing lots of aggression. Yes some men are guilty of battering their wives, but some women are also guilty of battering their kids. Isn't that a form of aggression? I've seen boys have physical fights and I've seen girls have physical fights. The difference is that we are taught that boys fight because its in their genes or what have you. This does not explain why girls fight or why brothers and sisters can be physically violent towards each other.

    One factor, I do notice about aggression. The weaker will tend to avoid picking fights with the stronger, and the stronger will generally pick fights with the weaker. How many times have you seen the scenario of violence set down through hiearchy. The boss fires Tom and Tom goes home and beats his wife Sarah and Sarah in turn takes it out and batters daughter Cindy and Cindy in turn goes out and beats little brother John and John goes out and bullies the neighborhood youngins ( an extreme example).

    In short, I tend to believe society and culture have a heavier effect on the aggression in males and females than the designation of sex and genes.
  14. Nov 30, 2003 #13
    Yes, that is a long shift. I am by no means grammatically perfect either! I was merely correcting you to help out ...I value it when someone points out when I have misspelled basic terms that are specific to my field of work. I also spoke up because I thought it might be helpful for you to know that we no longer use the term "psychopath" in the field of psychology. I tend to value others' corrections of me as information gained.

    Also, this last piece of knowledge I thought you might appreciate getting as you deal with your colleagues and patients. I would think it'd be embarrassing/unprofessional to use obviously dated terms.

    Oh well.
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2003
  15. Dec 3, 2003 #14
    Here is a a review of a book by an evolutionary scientist: http://home.comcast.net/~neoeugenics/dom.htm The book is called "Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence" by Wrangham and Peterson It has been a while since I read it, but it explains a lot about the evolution of male violence as well as violence in general.


    Niels Bohr
  16. Dec 3, 2003 #15
    Interestingly, females are not as non-violent/"innocent" as the ideology of feminism has hypothesized, here is a review of "Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection" by a female Neo-Darwinist scientist, Sarah Hrdy: http://home.comcast.net/~neoeugenics/hrdy.htm According to this book, in the past human females used to often wean their brood by throwing less fit offspring off of cliffs or killing them with a blow to the head with a large rock. In other words, many un-altruistic acts only associated with males according to feminism is actually also found in females.


    Niels Bohr
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