Full version Why Are Males Are More Aggressive Than Females

Why Are Males Are More Aggressive Than Females

This print version free essay Why Are Males Are More Aggressive Than Females.

Category: Social Issues

Autor: reviewessays 24 February 2011

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Why Are Males More Aggressive Than Females?

All societies behave in a different way towards two sexes and distinguish two genders. Through innumerable indications, we are taught that men and women are different. In everyday life, it is commonly assumed that men are more aggressive than women. Statistics indicate that males are more likely than females to commit such crimes as murder, armed robbery, and aggravated assault which are the result of feeling aggressive. In addition men describe themselves as being aggressive to a greater extent than do women and show greater potential for acting aggressively. All of these assumptions lead us to a certain question: Why are human males more aggressive than females? Actually, there are two significant factors which determine this distinctiveness, these are, biological and environmental factors. Both of them are strong evidences. However, the question is which of them has more influence on aggression that the other one.

Research in the past on aggression was performed under the hypothesis was that women rarely display aggression; therefore, aggressive behavior was viewed as a male phenomenon. Recent research has challenged the gender bias in the existence of aggressive behaviors and has broadened the definition of aggression. According to this definition, aggression is any behavior that is intended to inflict harm (physical and /or psychological) on another human (Geen, 11). As we see, in this definition, aggression is applied to all humans without separating women from men.

There are several explanations for aggressive behaviors of males and females. Biologists argue that testosterone, the male androgen, is the key factor of aggression in males. Some psychologists blame the ways parents behave towards their children in a double standard about the acceptability of aggression. Other theorists identify male and female adult roles: the tendency for men’s participation in competitive sports, the military, and the cut- throat world of business actually encourage the use of aggression in males. In contrast, women’s traditional roles as homemakers or as lower-status employees systematically deter the expression of aggression. These theories may explain why women are less aggressive than men.

Many studies have investigated possible links between different degrees of aggression in men and women and biological factors. The studies have indicated that, across cultures, males are generally more assertive, less inhibited in expressing anger and more likely to use physical aggression than females. (Archer, 233) Genetic and hormonal factors have been suggested as possible causes of this difference in aggressive behavior between the two sexes. Males, for example normally possess one Y chromosome and one X chromosome in contrast to the two X chromosomes of women, and they have higher plasma levels of the sex hormone testosterone. (Archer, 240) High levels of testosterone are associated with increased aggression, but the relationship is complex, since testosterone levels interact with the environment. Testosterone increases aggression only under conditions of competition, and positive associations between testosterone and aggression are affected by other people in the individuals’ environment. However, these are difficult to interpret because there are also effects of aggressive behavior on hormones.

Robert Trivers, an influential evolutionary biologist during the 1970’s, suggested that males and females have evolved different degrees of aggression. According to Triver’s theory, female mammals are more invested in the reproductive process than male mammals because female mammals must contribute a relatively large egg, milk and blood to create offspring. Males, however, donate a relatively small amount of seamen. Since females must sacrifice more to produce, they are more likely to favor producing a smaller quantity of high quality offspring. In contrast, males have relatively little invested in each offspring, so producing a large quantity of offspring is favorable to males. Thus, theoretically, females are more selective of mates than males, and males must compete to win mates. Because of this competition, males are thought to be more aggressive than females. (Bartek, 1999)

There are clearly no simple genetic or hormonal factors that can explain the variation in aggressive in males and females. Studies of human males suggest that there is at most a small genetic component to aggression, but a greater one for personality traits associated with such behavior. The biological mechanisms translating the message in the genes into antisocial or criminal behavior are not known. Therefore, there is clearly no simple aggressive gene effect. Many genes are likely to be involved, and each may have a weak effect on aggressive behavior. A direct genetic effect on aggression, for example, may determine how quickly an individual responds to aggravation. Aggression may also be influenced indirectly; for example, a man’s size and strength may affect the way he behaves and how others react to him. (Turner, 253)

For males and females, there is substantial evidence for environmental factors effecting aggressive behavior, particularly factors in the home, such as parental attitudes, parental discipline, role models and television violence.

The roles we live out each day are connected with the way we think about aggression. It may also be that parents are responsible for these roles by giving the messages they send to their children. “Parents respond to males and females differently, speaking more often to their daughters, whom they also touch more frequently and treat more delicately.” (Perry, 200) The kinds of toys and games parents choose, the kinds of clothing they select for their children, the way they themselves behave and what they say directly about gender offer significant messages to their children regarding what is appropriate behavior for each gender (Weiler, 1996). For instance, boys are adapted to play with guns, whereas girls are let to play with Sindy and Barby babies when both genders are finding out how the world looks like. Most notably, girls stop behaving aggressively. According to Weiler, since girls feel as if they are behaving like boys when they act aggressively, they seem to decide, “Girls don’t do this; I am a girl, so I would better not be aggressive.”

Moreover, after age four, rough, spiky, black or mechanical things are thought to be proper for males, and these kinds of things encourage the aggressive behaviors in males. In contrast, soft, pink, fuzzy, or flowery things are feminine, and these things deter females’ aggressiveness. As a result, boys are ‘taught’ to be aggressive while girls ‘learn’ behaving not aggressive.

When we consider about the other agent of socialization, that is, mass media, we see that generally, there is a positive relationship between the amount of violent TV programmes which a child watches and aggression level. Children especially boys who identify with TV characters are more likely to be influenced than girls because boys choose aggressive role models like Terminator, Rocky, Bruce Lee or He-Man (Campbell, 78).

The other factor contributing to aggression is explained by social learning theory that says, “Aggression is learned like any other social behavior.” (Geen 19) The permanence of aggression over time affects both males and females. According to Archer, the age at which early aggressiveness predicts later aggression differs for males and females. For males, aggressiveness at ages 10 and 13 predicts adult criminal behavior. For females, aggressiveness at age 13 only predicts adult criminal behavior. On the other hand, Bjцrkqvist’ research suggests that sex differences exist in the quality of aggression, but not the quantity. Gender differences in the degree and the form of aggressive behavior could be explained by the different social roles of females and males (Perry, 202) As Perry writes in his book, the traditional gender roles assigned to males in most of the societies are the instrumental role for males and the expressive role for females. The instrumental role stresses rationality, competitiveness, and especially aggression. In contrast, the expressive role emphasizes emotion and peace making.

In addition, culture also relates to aggression. An extensive study of aggression in the culture of one country- the United States- has shown that aggressive values form an important part of the overall value system in that society. (Bartek, 1999) A large number of people were surveyed in this study, and it showed that 70 per cent agree with the item: “When a boy is growing up, it is important for him to have a few fist fights.” Furthermore, the research on regional differences in aggression shows that aggression is more prevalent in southern and western regions than in northern regions in the US. After an insult a southern male shows higher testosterone and cortisol levels than northern male. Like males, northern females are less aggressive than southern males. (Bartek, 1999)

To respond to all of these approaches to the relationship between aggression and gender, social representation theory has come up with another reason. According to this theory, women cry rather than hit, not because of their hormones, their reinforcement history, or their traditional roles, but because they see aggression as a personal failure; and the safest release for their anger is crying. Men hit, not because their testosterone makes them hit, or because their mothers didn’t punish them enough, or because they are the decision-makers, but because when they are publicly humiliated by another male, they believe that aggression will restore their status. This theory defends that social representations, such as aggression, must engage with our biology, biography, and social roles, but they are not determined by biology, biography or social roles. Social representations act as a kind of cognitive stick that hold together one’s past history with the future. They also join society’s expectations, that is, “Women do not fight”, and our expectations of us (“Fighting is destructive and selfish”) Perhaps they even glue together the demands of biology such as; low androgens, low aggression. (Campbell 84)

Neither environmental nor biological factors can be viewed in isolation. There are complex interactions between genetic, hormonal and environmental factors. At first a child has little control over his environment, but as he grows he can, to a greater or lesser extent, create his own environment, selecting certain situations, responding to and reinforcing his own behavior, and evoking certain reactions from others. (Murphy, 2000) A boy grows up learning gender roles- that is, how males and females are expected to behave, while his personality, for example, determines how he responds to a situation. “Thus an aggressive boy may seek out hostile situations and reinforce his aggression, and may evoke hostile reactions from others; he may, for example, choose to watch violent television programmes, he may elicit harsh punishment from his parents.” (Turner, 242) Therefore, we can not say that either environmental or biological make-up explains differential aggressive behavior in males and females. Both play important roles in creating the conditions for aggression.


1- Archer, J. (1994). Male Violence. Canada: London and New York.

2- Bartek, M. (1999). Neural Masculization and Feminization. Retrieved January 7, 2002, from Bryn Mawr College Library Online database.

3- Campbell, A. (1993). Men, Women, and Aggression. New York: HarperCollins.

4- Geen, G.R. (1990). Human Aggression. Great Britain: Milton Keynes.

5- Murphy, L. (2000). Gender Differencs in Aggression within Adolescent Peer Groups. Retrieved July, 29, 2002, from Expanded Academic ASAP database.

6- Perry, J. A. (2000). An Introduction to Social Science. The United States: Allyn &


7 Turner, K.A. (1994). Genetic and Hormonal Influences on Male Violence. In J. Archer (Ed.), Male Violence. (pp.233-257). Canada: London and New York.

8 Weiler, J. (1996). An Overview of Research on Girls and Violence. Retrieved February 15, 2002.