Sex differences in aggression

Anne Campbell

in Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology

Published in print April 2007 | ISBN: 9780198568308
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Sex differences in aggression

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  • Cognitive Psychology
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The sex difference in physical and verbal aggression is one of the most robust, universal, and durable. In the United States, men constitute eighty six percent of all violent offenders. The proportionate involvement of men rises with the seriousness of the offence. Meta-analyses of psychological studies using experimental, observational, and self- or other-report methods also find that men are more verbally and physically aggressive than women and that this difference is greater for physical aggression. The ubiquity of this effect, its early developmental onset, and its consistency with other primate species suggest the utility of an explanation on evolution. This article suggests that the psychological instantiation of the reluctance to directly expose oneself to physical danger is fear. Fear also forms the developmental infrastructure for behavioural inhibition so that females are better able to control the behavioural expression of anger when provoked than are men.

Keywords: sex difference; aggression; men; women; evolution; fear; behavioural inhibition; behavioural expression; anger

Article.  11823 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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