Academic journal article Journal of Behavioural Sciences

Normative Beliefs about Aggression and Retaliation: Association with Aggressive Behaviour and Anticipatory Self-Censure

Academic journal article Journal of Behavioural Sciences

Normative Beliefs about Aggression and Retaliation: Association with Aggressive Behaviour and Anticipatory Self-Censure

Article excerpt

Two essential psychological mechanisms implicated in regulation of harmful behaviour towards others are (a) moral beliefs or standards of conduct and (b) self-censure (Bandura, 1989, 1991). It has been suggested that moral beliefs exert an influence on behaviour through negative self-reactions such as self-censure and self-reproach (Bandura, 1991). Although there is substantial evidence on standards of conduct e.g., beliefs about legitimacy of aggression and their association with aggressive behaviour (Erdley, & Asher, 1998; Guerra & Slaby, 1990; Huesmann, & Guerra, 1997; Slaby, & Guerra, 1988; Zelli, Dodge, Lochman, & Laird, 1999) role of self-censure has received less attention (e.g., Bandura, Barbaranelli, Caprara, & Pastorelli, 1996). There is a distinction between general aggression beliefs, and retaliation beliefs. Association of these types of beliefs with aggressive behaviour and self-censure has not been extensively examined. A possible mediating or moderating role of self-censure also needs to be investigated. Intervention initiatives for aggressive behaviour can benefit from an exploration of these aspects. This study aimed to investigate association of sub-types of normative beliefs about aggression with aggressive behaviour and self-censure as well as verify the proposed anticipatory role of self-censure in regulating aggressive actions. It also aimed to examine gender differences in aggressive behaviour and self-censure.

It has been proposed that children and adolescents have multitude of opportunities to adopt for themselves as standards of conduct the belief that aggression is an acceptable response in a variety of situations (e.g., "It's O.K. to hit someone if he/she annoys you") (Bandura, 1973; Parke, & Slaby, 1983). On the basis of anticipated negative or positive consequences, children also learn to discriminate between acceptable and unacceptable standards of behaviour and to regulate their actions accordingly (Bandura, 1989; Huesmann, 1988; Perry, Perry, & Boldizar, 1990). The anticipated negative circumstances e.g., external sanctions and punishment are particularly salient in guiding the behaviour of younger children whereas with age people learn to refrain from behaving aggressively even in the absence of external sanctions merely through the self-generated reactions of self-censure (Perry, Perry, & Boldizar, 1990). They pointed out, "If children see that certain forms of aggression in certain situations and towards certain targets are inappropriate (e.g., physical aggression towards females or aggression against someone whose frustrating behaviour is not intentional), they may avoid acting aggressively under these circumstances for fear of self-censure (p.136).

Although an anticipatory and deterring role of self-censure has been suggested by both Bandura (1989) and Perry and colleagues (1990) it is not yet operationalzed. Hence there is hardly any measure of self-censure in literature. Negative selfreactions are sometimes called guilt, self-censure, negative selfevaluations and feeling bad (Bandura, Barbaranelli, Caprara, & Pastorelli, 1996; Campbell, Muncer, McManus, & Woodhouse, 1999; Crane-Ross, Tisak, & Tisak, 1998). Self- censure means criticising oneself for an act one has done. Anticipatory selfcensure would be an expectation of self-criticism if one acted in a certain way (Bandura, 1989). According to Bandura, this ability or function underpins self-regulation and monitoring of behaviour. Bandura and Walters (1959) found that assaultive delinquents expressed little or no self-censure about their violent conduct. Crane-Ross, Tisak and Tisak, (1998) found that beliefs that aggression was a legitimate response were highly correlated with positive self evaluations following aggression and aggressive behaviour was predicted by beliefs and values about aggression. There is also empirical support for the proposed association between beliefs about legitimacy of aggression and negative self-reactions. …

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