Sex and Gender Differences in Aggression
Social learning theory best explains why males are aggressive than females, including the mass killings that are committed by men. Social learning theory states that behavior is learned in two ways. The first method is that behavior is shaped and the second process is that a person’s behavior is reinforced (Helgeson). People are prone to environmental influences from quite an early age. Children to imitate the people around them and exhibit the same behavioral tendencies that they observe in their family and society. Most often children are rewarded for particular kind of behavior that they show. The reward allows them to continue that practice for a prolonged period till it becomes a habit. They often mimic the character of an aggressor that they see on television. This kind of mimicry makes them sex-typed. If a toddler sees his father exerting control over his mother verbally, then the child grows up to be like his father. Modelled and reinforced behaviors intertwine and effect a person equally.
Considering the theory of Social Learning, it can be explained why men maltreat women more than women abuse them. Men like to control women to assert their power and control. Men are influenced by their environment and their family from an early age. They imitate the characteristics that they see around them when they are growing up. Boys are taught to be more assertive in their actions so that they can later exhibit male dominance. Aggression in boys is manifested by watching television shows that are violent in themes and content. They are taught that a man is supposed to have the upper hand in everything. The social norms shape his personality in such a way that the boy starts to believe that everything should go according to his will. As he grows up, he starts exhibiting behaviors to keep the female members under control. Spousal abuse is an example of this act, in which the husband likes to keep the wife under control to show his dominance.
Helgeson, Vicky. Psychology of Gender. Psychology Press, 2015.