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Can Aggressive Behavior Ever Be Appropriate?
by Stephen A. Peterson 
04/23/12
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Can Aggressive Behavior Ever Be Appropriate?
© 2012

by

Stephen A. Peterson


At some point in one’s professional training, every child developmentalist or behaviorist will be faced with the question: “Can aggressive behavior among children ever be appropriate?” In general, aggressive behavior is perceived of a violent, physical action. This is part of what is aggressive behavior. The other part of aggressive behavior, actually the predominant form of aggression, is the non-physical aggression—the shouting (verbal exchanges), body language, avoidance (separating oneself from the rival).

We desire for everyone to live peacefully with each other and respect the privileges and rights of others. However, we know that there are those who overtly challenge every law, rule and code of human conduct. We also come to learn that no amount of peaceful negotiation will avert aggressiveness without some form non-physical restraint (i.e. temporary isolation, verbal admonishment, non access to a desired item—computer, game or the like). In today’s behavior management oriented society, we desire to avoid any form of corporal punishment. The debate for and against corporal punishment continues to rage on with expert support for both arguments.

One of the first things every child learns whether at home or outside the home is that if your try to take something from others, it makes them angry and they may hit you or they may say something to hurt your feelings. In any event, you are not going to feel good about the outcome.

First, all aggressive behaviors do not result in the deployment of physical violence among children. Most aggressive acts are predominantly verbal exchanges, aggressive gestures, shouting and the body language of displeasure by one or both children in involved.

Second, the longer the non-violent behaviors continue the more likely it will result in physical aggression. Many of these preludes to more heighten forms of violence are usually the shoving and pushing followed by hitting, kicking, pulling of hair and clothing and biting.

All would agree that a situation in which conflict is not what is desired. An atmosphere of warmth, friendly cooperation and helpfulness reduces conflicts. Absence of negative competitive pressure is essential to maintaining this atmosphere. Rivalries beyond those, which are an inevitable part of growth and development, make for insecurities and anxiety that find their expressions in withdrawal and shyness, arrogance and aggression. The competitive pressure remains a part of the human family regardless of culture or society.

The late child developmental psychologist, Jean Piaget, once observed that most all of children’s’ serious problems stem from unfavorable comparisons with another child in the family, in school or with close family friends. Even the so-called favorable comparison may lead to conceit and undesirable belief in a child who is told he or she is in some way better than those around her or him.


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