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Frustration is defined as an interference blocking someone from obtaining a goal; aggression is a behavior in response to frustration intended to harm the person blocking the goal (Berkowitz 1989; Anderson & Dill, 1995). The feelings of frustration lead to aggressive behaviors emitted by humans in extremely traumatic situations. The frustration-aggression hypothesis was formulated to link frustrating scenarios to acts of aggression towards people.
There have been two basic theories on the frustration-aggression hypothesis in relation to humans, and how there are exceptions to the rule (Anderson & Dill, 1995). The theories agree that there is a relationship between frustration and aggression. The original theory states, “all acts of aggression are the result of previous frustration and all frustration leads to aggression” (Anderson & Dill, 1995). However, research found that this theory contradicted itself in human application. The revised theory argued that only certain frustrating situations, such as an unsupportable drug addiction, produces aggressive behaviors (Berkowitz, 1989). The frustration-aggression hypothesis now recognizes that the obstruction of a goal is not enough to frustrate and person to the point of an aggressive act, frustration that causes acts aggression are instigated by an implicit or explicit drive to reach the goal (Berkowitz, 1989).
The frustration-aggression hypothesis relates to humans of all ages not specifically adults. An example is the article by Piamonte and Hoge (1973); their research found that even young children display frustration and aggression toward their peers. It was discovered that this behavior was learned by children through adult models with strong aggressive tendencies. Research findings suggest that children with strong aggressive tendencies display more imitation of aggression than children with weaker aggressive tendencies, and aggressive cues act as releasers for existing aggressive tendencies. In order to prevent young children from developing this violent nature, adults need to learn to control their aggression, especially if they are a model for young children.
Prevention is not mentioned in research because frustration and aggression are almost impossible to track; frustration is an emotion, which anyone can be feeling at any time, aggression although it can be seen is hard to prevent because it stems from frustration. However, intervention of frustration and aggression is possible using medication, therapy, and anger management techniques. An example is a person with severe anxiety, anxiety can often promote frustration, and aggression, which is, treated with antidepressant or anxiety medications. Medication, therapy, and anger management all require that the aggressor know they need help, and be willing to cooperate and reduce their violent behavior.
An example of the frustration-aggression hypothesis is an article written by Frank Tam and Mitsuru Taki (2007), which compared female bullying in Hong Kong to female bullying in Japan. The research compared their home life, academic activities, societal expectations, and stress level. It was found that these aspects contributed greatly to the level of frustration and type of aggression they demonstrated. Although all the different factors explored contributed to the subjects frustration and aggression, it was societal expectations and stress level that accounted for most of the subjects frustration. The girls from Hong Kong expressed aggression through the frustrations of academic activities and social behavior, while the girls from Japan expressed aggression because of societal expectations.
Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior stimulated by aversive occurrences linked to stressful circumstances (Tam &Taki, 2007). Despite the fact that frustration and aggression were described as two separate entities in the study of bullying, they used the frustration-aggression hypothesis to describe bullying as a response to mental frustration. The aggressive tendencies of people who bully may stem from specific situations or from on-going pressure and stress (Berkowitz, 1989; Anderson & Dill, 1995).
It has been found that stress and societal pressure can be a cause of frustration and therefore lead to aggression, as in the case of female bullying (Tam & Taki, 2007). Frustration, which caused the aggression of bullying, is different between girls in Japan and girls in Hong Kong. Japanese girls were found to bully when provoked by their peers, frustrated, or in need of venting their built up emotions, while the girls from Hong Kong bullied as a reaction to educational pressure, and the behavior of their peers (Tom & Taki, 2007). Researchers discovered that this type of aggression is an expressive way of venting frustration, indicating that stress is a major factor in the frustration-aggression hypothesis (Tom & Taki, 2007). Stress was found to be the main reason girls from both Japan and Hong Kong bully.
Female bullying could be intervened through medication and therapy. Medication can be used to relieve stress, depression, and anxiety, which might alleviated the aggression caused by bullying. Therapy can be used to address aggression through training these young girls how to transfer their frustration into something else. Through medication and therapy, frustration can be intervened before aggression is manifested.
The frustration-aggression hypothesis relates to the Columbine incident of 1999, but only according to the initial reports. According to CNN the initial report stated that the two perpetrators were considered social outcasts, teased, and bullied (Chen, 2009). This could cause frustration, aggression, and feelings of revenge. However, it was later found that the perpetrators were typical students at Columbine. They were not loners, part of the trench coat mafia, or bullied on a regular basis.
Despite their typical social lives, the perpetrators did have mental incapacities, one had a psychiatric disorder, and the other had severe depression. The in-depth psychiatric investigation shows that the frustration-aggression may not apply to the Columbine incident. Although aggression and violence occurred, there has been no evidence to support the idea that frustration instigated the aggressive behaviors of the perpetrators.
Some hypothetical situations that could link the frustration-aggression hypothesis to Columbine are emotional neglect, domestic violence, peer pressure, educational stress, or social frustration. CNN found that the family of one of the perpetrators had no idea that their son was capable of such violence and had no idea he was planning something like this. The report given by his mother indicates that they may have been emotionally neglecting their son, not conversing with him or discussing his activities in school. The two boys could have been victims of domestic violence causing the frustration and aggression that was manifested in the Columbine incident. Peer pressure, although highly unlikely could be another cause of the aggression leading to the columbine incident. It was found that the perpetrators had a specific circle of friends, those friends may have encouraged the perpetrators to pull a prank or create a panic situation, and pressure from friends can cause stress and anxiety leading to frustration and the aggression of Columbine. Educational stress could be a cause for Columbine. The perpetrators could have been anxious about college, not wanting to leave high school, or receiving less than adequate grades causing severe stress and depression in the perpetrators causing them to feel frustrated and commit the Columbine incident. Columbine could have also been committed because of social frustration; the perpetrators could have been squeezed out of their social group or broken up with by a girlfriend causing depression and stress leading to Columbine. There are a number of reasons why the perpetrators committed Columbine; however, no evidence suggests that frustration was a key component in this severe act of aggression.
Alvarez, A., & Bachman, R. (2008). Violence; The Enduring Problem. Los Angeles, California: Sage Publications.
Anderson, C. A., & Dill, J. C. (1995). Effects of frustration justification on hostile aggression. Aggressive Behavior, 21, 359=369
Berkowitz, L. (1989). Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis; Examination and Reformulation. Psychological Bulletin, 106, 59-73
Piamonte, J. S., & Hoge R. D. (1973). An investigation of the frustration-aggression relation in children. Canad. J. Beuav. Sci., 5, 362-370
Taki, M., & Tam, F. W. (2007). Bullying amoung girls in Japan and Hong Kong: An examination of the frustration-aggression model Educational Research and Evaluation, 13, 373-399
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