Title : The role of reinforcement sensitivity and parental behaviour in development of aggressive behaviour regarding its form and function
A multidimensional approach to studying aggressive behaviour is based on a distinction between the various functions and various forms of aggression. The function of aggressive behaviour is related to the motive of the perpetrator. Therefore, a distinction is made between reactive and proactive aggression. Reactive aggression is a reaction of defence from a real or perceived threat. Proactive aggression does not appear as a reaction to a threat but as anticipated aggressive behaviour that serves as a means to achieve a particular goal. Proactive and reactive aggression differ in terms of biological and parental etiological factors. Proactive aggressive behaviour is formed under the influence of parental permissiveness, while reactive aggressive behaviour is formed under the influence of low parental acceptance. Reactive aggressive behaviour is connected to a disposition for anxiety, emotional deregulation, and high emotional reactivity to aversive stimuli. Proactive aggressive behaviour is related to low anxiety, lesser sensitivity to aversive stimuli, callous personality traits and proneness to reward-motivated behaviour. Proactive and reactive aggression manifest in different forms. The forms of aggressive behaviour include overt and relational aggression. Overt aggression refers to endangering others by verbal and physical means, while relational aggression refers to endangering others through social relationships. The forms of aggression are differently related with parental behaviour under which they are formed. Thus, overt aggression has been linked to coercive discipline. Although, no consistent association is suggested between particular parental behaviour and relational aggression, most studies suggest psychological control to be related to development of relational aggression. Moreover, forms of aggression have different biological correlates. Particularly, a low predisposition toward anxiety and fear is a significant predictor of overt aggression, while a high predisposition toward anxiety and fear is a significant predictor of relational aggression. Namely, a person with a low anxiety and fear propensity will have a problem with internalising social norms which represents a risk for developing overt aggression. On the other hand, anxious individuals use relational forms of aggression which are more socially acceptable and a risk for retaliation is minor. Namely, there is an area in the brain the stimulation of which has an effect of reward and an area the stimulation of which has an effect of punishment. Clear differences are established between aggressive reactions during conditions of reward and punishment. One of the most important theories in this field is the Reinforcement sensitivity theory (Gray 1970), according to which personality represents individual differences in sensitivity to reward and punishment. Hence, proactive aggression is, unlike reactive aggression, significantly correlated with aggression during conditions of reward while, reactive and relational aggression are, unlike proactive and overt aggression significantly correlated with sensitivity to punishment. Mediator and moderator roles of parental behaviour and reinforcement sensitivity in a relationship with forms and functions of aggression are discussed.