Psychology of Violence

Violence represents aggressive behavior that aims to cause physical or psychological injury through the use of physical force. There are two basic types of aggressive behavior, namely instrumental aggression and hostile aggression. The purpose of instrumental aggression is other than causing harm, while hostile aggression is performed to injure an individual. Harm which occurs by accident, without intent, cannot be classified as violence.

Violence, which has become one of the most pressing problems for behavior experts in the 21st century is subject to continuous research work not only of psychologists, but also of public health specialists, neuroscientists, sociologists, medics, criminologists as well as of other professionals studying the issue. Psychology of violence is that part of the psychology which deals with identifying the causes of violence, finding prevention methods and developing treatments.

One major type of violence is street violence, whose forms include assault, homicide, sexual assault and juvenile violence. Another type of violence is family or domestic violence, which is among the most widespread forms of violence. It emerges between the two members of a couple or between the members of a family. Family violence includes child abuse, spouse abuse or elderly abuse. Child abuse is generally separated into four types: physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect or emotional abuse.

Physical abuse, which is defined as hitting a child "severely enough to cause injuries," can occur from a child's infancy through to their teenaged years. Sexual abuse could include exposure, touching, sexual contact and intercourse, but is less often reported by victims, because they feel ashamed. Neglect occurs when an adult fails to meet the child's basic needs like food, clothes, home, school and love and care. Emotional abuse involves "the persistent degradation or humiliation of children," or when a child is consistently insulted and an adult makes him or her feel ugly, stupid or worthless. This kind of abuse excludes physical or sexual abuse, but it affects the individual in a severe way.

Spouse abuse concerns both violence between married couples or couples living together and between dating ones. It can be separated into physical or sexual violence. Though using minor violence against a child might be legal, using even minor violence against women represents an assault. Spouse abuse exists in two directions, either from men towards women, or from women towards men. Sexual abuse can occur within marriage, although many women decline to admit that they have been victims of marital rape.

Violence between dating partners differs from marital abuse. Men are more likely to become violent with their wives and less likely to injure their dates, while women seem to be more aggressive during their dating period, according to a study by Stets and Straus (1990). Date rape is common in the college period, but again many of the victims of this kind of violence deny having been forced to have sex.

Violent men are divided into three categories. Batterers are those who beat their wives, but usually do not abuse individuals who are not part of their families. Street offenders assault people who are outside their families. Pan-violent offenders abuse both family and non-family members. It is generally assumed that social class and income levels are among the factors that influence individuals since the very beginning of their lives. People with lower income tend to get lower quality healthcare service, live in neighborhoods with higher violence rates or get lower quality education. Studies do not give firm evidence that there is connection between violence and poverty.

Race, mental illnesses, anatomy and certain family characteristics are also among the factors that affect individuals and make them cause crimes, according to some experts. Aggression in children, in turn, is linked with violence on television, another cause of violence.

The psychology of violence explores not only the nature of violence, its types and most typical representatives, but also its roots and causes. Psychologists study the reasons and circumstances that make an individual become violent, but also identify patterns and trends that are typical for certain type of violent individuals. On the basis of their research, psychologists and criminologists make profiles of violent individuals.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Understanding Violence
Elizabeth Kandel Englander.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003 (2nd edition)
The Psychology and Neurobiology of Violence
deMause, Lloyd.
The Journal of Psychohistory, Vol. 35, No. 2, Fall 2007
The Meanings of Violence
Elizabeth A. Stanko.
Routledge, 2003
Violence Assessment and Intervention: The Practitioner's Handbook
Michael H. Corcoran; James S. Cawood.
CRC Press, 2003
Violence: Ethnographic Encounters
Parvis Ghassem-Fachandi.
Berg, 2009
Teens Who Hurt: Clinical Interventions to Break the Cycle of Adolescent Violence
Kenneth V. Hardy; Tracey A. Laszloffy.
Guilford Press, 2005
Workplace Violence and Mental Illness
Kristine M. Empie.
LFB Scholarly, 2003
Youth Aggression and Violence: A Psychological Approach
Thomas G. Moeller.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001
Clinical Assessment of Dangerousness: Empirical Contributions
Georges-Franck Pinard; Linda Pagani.
Cambridge University Press, 2001
Understanding Violent Crime
Stephen Jones.
Open University Press, 2000
Youth Violence and Positive Psychology: Research Potential through Integration
Tweed, Roger G.; Bhatt, Gira; Dooley, Stephen; Spindler, Andrea; Douglas, Kevin S.; Viljoen, Jodi L.
Canadian Psychology, Vol. 52, No. 2, May 2011
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Preventing Violence in Relationships: Psychological Science Addressing Complex Social Issues
Wolfe, David A.
Canadian Psychology, Vol. 47, No. 1, February 2006
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Psychology of Group Aggression
Arnold P. Goldstein.
Wiley, 2002
Anger and Its Links to Violent Offending
Howells, Kevin.
Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, Vol. 11, No. 2, November 2004
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Must We Fight? From the Battlefield to the Schoolyard, a New Perspective on Violent Conflict and Its Prevention
William L. Ury.
Jossey-Bass, 2002
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator