Sex Differences in Social Behavior: A Social-Role Interpretation

By Alice H. Eagly | Go to book overview

3
Sex Differences in Aggressive Behavior

The existence in social psychology of a large research literature on aggressive behavior makes it possible to examine sex differences in another important class of social behaviors. Aggression has been defined by psychologists as behavior intended to inflict harm or injury on other people (e.g., Baron, 1977; Berkowitz, 1964), whereas helping, as explained in Chapter 2, has been regarded as behavior intended to provide aid or succor to others. Thus, because the intended effect of aggression is the opposite of that of helping, aggressive behavior provides an instructive contrast to helping behavior.

Together with Valerie Steffen, I undertook a quantitative review of the sex differences reported in the aggression literature ( Eagly & Steffen, 1986a). Although these sex differences had been reviewed previously, most reviewers (e.g., Hyde, 1984, 1986; Maccoby & Jacklin, 1974, 1980) had focused primarily on children's aggressive behavior. Yet the tendency for males to be more aggressive than females is larger among children than adults in both psychological ( Hyde, 1984) and the ethnographic ( Rohner, 1976) research. Furthermore, the methods used to study aggression are quite different in the child and adult literatures. Therefore, reviews containing a substantial proportion of child studies not only provide larger estimates of sex differences in aggression than are valid for adults but also may emphasize determinants of aggression that are valid primarily for children. Our review, like Frodi, Macaulay, and Thome's ( 1977) narrative review, was limited to sex differences in adult aggression.

To insure comparability with other meta-analyses of sex differences in social behavior, we limited our sample to studies with behavioral measures

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