Aggression and Adolescence

Adolescence is a time of physical and psychological growth marked by a variety of feelings and behaviours. Young individuals are more vulnerable to hostility during this stage, whether as perpetrators or victims. Aggression is defined as behaviour that is intended to cause bodily or psychological harm to another person.

Aggression and Adolescence

Aggression is a complicated behaviour that can emerge during adolescence, a time of rapid physical, emotional, and cognitive development. While not all teenagers are aggressive, an increase in aggressive inclinations during this time of life is not uncommon. Physical aggressiveness, verbal aggression, and relational aggression are the most common forms of hostility among teenagers. Hitting, kicking, pushing, and other forms of physical violence are examples of physical aggression. Name−calling, teasing, and other forms of verbal abuse are examples of verbal aggressiveness. Relational aggression is the social manipulation of someone in order to harm them, such as spreading rumours or excluding them from social events.

Adolescents who are exposed to aggressiveness may suffer a variety of long−term implications. Anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns, as well as physical health issues, can result. It can also impair academic performance, raise the risk of substance dependence, and make it harder to build and maintain healthy relationships.

Forms of Aggression

Aggression can be categorised into many forms based on a variety of characteristics. Here are some examples of frequent types of aggression:

  • Physical Aggression− Physical aggressiveness is the use of physical force, such as hitting, kicking, pushing, or any other form of physical violence, to inflict hurt or injury on another.

  • Verbal Aggression− Verbal aggressiveness is defined as using spoken or written words to attack, criticise, insult, or threaten people. Yelling, name−calling, threatening, or using unpleasant language are all examples.

  • Relational Aggression− Relational aggression, also known as social aggression or indirect aggression, includes the use of social ties to damage others. Spreading rumours, isolation, social manipulation, and undermining relationships are examples of such behaviours.

  • Reactive Aggression− Reactive aggressiveness happens as a reaction to a perceived threat, provocation, or irritation. It is an instinctive and quick reaction intended to defend or retaliate against a perceived threat or cause of frustration.

  • Instrumental Aggression− Instrumental aggression is aggressiveness employed to attain a certain aim or desired consequence. Aggression is motivated by a planned strategy to get something or exercise control over others, rather than by anger or irritation.

  • Hostile Aggression− Hostile aggressiveness is motivated by wrath, animosity, or a desire to harm others. It is not goal−oriented and is usually the result of personal disputes, resentment, or a perceived offence.

  • Cyber Aggression− With the growth of digital communication, cyber aggression refers to the use of electronic devices and online platforms to engage in aggressive behaviour, such as cyberbullying, online harassment, or disseminating damaging content.

It's worth noting that various types of aggression are not mutually exclusive, and an individual may exhibit a mix of them depending on the situation and underlying factors.

Factors of Aggression in Adolescents

A variety of factors can influence adolescent aggression. These elements can interact and contribute to the development or manifestation of aggressive behaviours. Here are some of the most common factors connected with adolescent aggression:

  • Biological Factors− Adolescent hormonal changes, notably increased testosterone levels, can influence violence. Some individuals may be predisposed to violent behaviour due to genetic causes.

  • Cognitive Factors− Certain cognitive processes and biases in adolescents can lead to violence. Difficulties with impulse control, problem−solving, perspective−taking, and emotional management, for example, may increase the chance of aggressive behaviour.

  • Media Influences− Adolescents who are exposed to violent media content, such as violent video games, movies, or television shows, may get desensitised to aggressiveness and become more likely to engage in aggressive behaviour.

  • Psychological Factors− Individual psychological features can lead to violence during adolescence. Low self−esteem, frustration, difficulty managing anger, a history of trauma or abuse, mental health concerns (e.g., conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, or certain personality disorders), or substance addiction are examples.

  • Environmental Factors− Adolescent aggression levels can be strongly influenced by the environment in which they grow and develop.

  • Family Environment− Adolescent aggressive behaviour can be influenced by experiences with harsh or inconsistent parenting, family conflict, domestic abuse, or neglect.

  • Peer Influences− Associating with delinquent or aggressive peers, being bullied or victimised, or belonging to a social group that glorifies aggression can all increase the risk of engaging in aggressive behaviour.

  • Community and Societal Factors− Living in high−crime areas, and witnessing community violence, poverty, and social inequality can all contribute to teenage aggression.

Predisposing Child Characteristics for Aggression

Attention deficit, often known as hyperactivity Hyperactivity disorder, is primarily hereditary. Children that exhibit this restless, impulsive style of conduct do not necessarily begin aggressively, although a percentage become so over time. They have difficulties waiting their turn in social situations and games, which leads to retribution and conflicts. The long−term prognosis is highly bleak when hyperactivity and conduct disorder interact at a young age.

Delinquents have an IQ of 8−10 points lower than their law−abiding peers—before the commencement of violent behavior. Irritability and explosiveness, a lack of social awareness and anxiety, and incentive−seeking behavior all predispose to conduct difficulties. The interaction between a child's qualities and surroundings is complicated. As youngsters age, their surroundings are more shaped by their actions and decisions. There may be watershed moments when critical decisions set the tone for years. Thus, it is not just a young person's amount of antisocial behavior that impacts later outcomes but also how that behavior shapes the social milieu in which they live. This has significant intervention implications.

Difficulties with Friends and at School

These youngsters cannot engage and take turns on the school playground without disturbing others or becoming hostile. Peer rejection is usually swift, and the youngsters associate with other antisocial children who share their ideals. Those who have trouble reading often do not have any credentials by the time they finish school and are hence unemployed. This may contribute to the persistence of violent behaviors.

Parental Influence on Children’s Emotions and Attitudes

Difficulties are frequently traceable back to childhood. A substantial number of toddlers who develop conduct issues have disorganized attachment patterns, exhibiting anxiety, rage, and distress upon reunion with their parents following a brief absence. This misbehavior usually reacts to terrifying, inaccessible, and inconsistent parenting. The emotionally warped, muddled way in which the mother talks about her own parents' relationships can predict the stability of baby attachment with a high degree of confidence before the kid is even born.

By middle childhood, aggressive youngsters are likely to misinterpret others' neutral overtures as hostile and have difficulty assessing other people's sentiments. They are weak at developing constructive conflict resolutions, instead feeling that aggressiveness will be effective. This proclivity to take offense at the slightest provocation is mirrored in street sensitivity to disrespect, which can result in swift revenge. This reflects the weak self−esteem and confrontational worldview these young people have developed due to years of frustration and failure. Some people believe being aggressive helps them feel good about themselves and gives them power.


Adolescent aggression is a common but serious issue. It is generally motivated by dissatisfaction and can be produced by a variety of biological, cognitive, environmental, and psychological reasons. Understanding these characteristics is critical for recognising, preventing, and treating violent conduct in teenagers.

Updated on: 07-Nov-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started