Problems of Self-Regulation in Forms and Functions of Aggression
Keywords:effortful control, reactive control, forms of aggression, functions of aggression
AbstractThe role of self-regulation in aggression has typically been studied by neglecting the multidimensional nature of aggression, which differentiates between its forms (overt vs. relational) and functions (proactive vs. reactive). Besides, the contribution of two aspects of self-regulation (effortful control and reactive control) in the regulation of aggression has been ignored. Studies suggest that only reactive aggressive children have low effortful control because aggression results from the insufficient inhibition of an aggressive impulse. On the other hand, some studies suggest that proactive aggression has no deficits in effortful control, because proactive aggression is referred to as premeditated behaviour driven by instrumental goals. However, the conceptualization of proactive aggression as premeditated with higher levels of forethought and perseverance is not sustainable, because proactive aggression is associated with reactive undercontrol which corresponds to impulsivity. This paper addresses this problem by reviewing recent research suggesting that both forms and functions of aggression are related to inadequate effortful control. Studies suggest that forms and functions of aggression are related to various aspects of impulsivity. Further, reactive overcontrolled children are, due to their behavioural inhibition, better able to attenuate their aggression. Future studies should determine which forms and functions of aggression are characterized by low reactive overcontrol, i.e. low behavioural inhibition. For children whose aggression is driven by weak reactive control, effortful control is necessary to inhibit aggressive impulses. Interventions are suggested for reinforcing self-regulation in forms and functions of aggression.