An Examination of the Cause of Gender Differences in Aggression and Violent Behavior Through Sociocultural and Biological Factors

Topics: Violence, Gender, Aggression Pages: 8 (2687 words) Published: December 27, 2011
An Examination of the Cause of Gender Differences in Aggression and Violent Behavior through Sociocultural and Biological Factors

It may not come as a surprise to many that there exists a significant difference in the gender of perpetrators of violent crimes. For example, in tracking the perpetrators of homicide in the United States by gender and year, one can find that males outnumber females many times over, with over 15,000 more males than females committing homicide in the early 1990’s (Fox & Zawiz, 2004). While it seems concreted that males perpetrate more violent acts than females, the data still shows at least 1,000 females a year behind violence. The question that arises from these findings concerns the reason for such a large gap between genders, and what facilitates it. Two popular lenses than can be compared in examining the question lie in the studies of sociological and biological influences on men and women – more specifically what influences women to be so much less violent than men given the statistics. It is important to consider learning experiences, either through natural instincts or facilitated through social means, and the history of individuals among their families. One of the aforementioned lenses has a much larger impact on creating differences in violent dispositions amongst men and women, and there is a vast array of evidence from which to draw upon for support.

A good starting point can be found in first, examining the biological factors that influence both genders, predating social construct since the first human beings appeared on the planet. The study conducted by Maccoby and Jacklin c. 1974 showed that differences in both physical and verbal aggression begin to surface early on in life, between the ages of 2 and 3, and continues throughout growth (Cummings, Iannotti, & Zahn-Waxler, 1989). These findings suggest a certain preprogrammed level of aggression that is higher in males, and perhaps evidence of violence as an evolutionary tool. Taking into account the facts that Homo sapiens are both mammals and primates, one can look at primate behavior to search for inherent violence. For a vast majority of male mammals, their main reason to exist is to procreate as widely as possible, contributing a comparatively small share towards the entire procreation process with their seed, while females carry offspring and support it until the offspring is ready to reproduce as well. It is not uncommon to see male mammals taking little part in raising offspring, and social stability is not a priority for them (Hand, 2003). Evidence of biologically-rooted violence can be observed in primate behavior where groups of males will drive out or kill other males and kill the young. This is done so that females in the area will begin their menstrual cycles again, thus giving the conquering primates a higher chance at reproducing (Hausfater & Hardy, 1984). With this reason, in addition to access to new resources for which to facilitate reproduction, such as food and shelter, it seems apparent that evolution would reward violence, especially in males.

Unfortunately there is not a particularly large amount of literature on aggression in females, but there are a number of important inferences to be made from existing data on aggressive behavior. Primate studies such as those mentioned above suggest that the ideal condition for females to carry out the difficult and expensive feat of bearing offspring is long-term social stability, something violent behavior does not facilitate (Hand, 2003). With the larger part of the reproductive burden, females tend to avoid behavior that might pose difficulty for their part in the reproductive process, and this behavior suggests a clear difference between genders for violent behavior; this is true with primates, at least. This can also be found among contemporary human beings, as evidenced in such studies as the one performed in 1986 with college students....
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