Aggressive Behavior An Intercultural Study of on Children's Playgrounds
Leopold Bellak Maxine Antell
A number of books in the early seventies have signaled, as well as contributed to, a revival of interest in the history of the Nazi period in Germany and in German character. Prominent among these were Langer's book on Hitler's mind,1 Speer's memoirs,2 and Fest's series of biographies of twelve Nazi leaders.3 Reading these books inevitably calls up questions of a repetition of similar behavior and activities: how could they, what made them, do it? With these questions in mind, one is struck by the fact that nearly all of the Nazi criminals had suffered some sort of serious mistreatment or cruelty in childhood. Perhaps this is a partial answer, perhaps, as previously suggested by Bellak, "Man's inhumanity to man is his revenge for the indignities he suffered in his childhood."4
In order to study this plausible generality in a somewhat controlled fashion, it seemed profitable to compare German playground behavior with playground behavior in other cultures. The simple hypothesis was that if indeed there is any validity to the above line of reasoning, the German adult would show more aggression toward children on the playground than would parents of other nationalities, and that in turn the German children would show more aggressive behavior to their peers than would children in other countries.
This hypothesis certainly accorded with some impressionistic data gleaned while one of us (LB) wandered through some playgrounds in several European countries. In several hours spent on the banks of the Main River in a regular playground in Frankfurt, Germany, the following incidents were observed:
This essay appeared in the Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 44 (4), July 1974.