Aggression: Is It Caused Genetically Or Socially?


Behavior intended to harm is the definition of aggression. When people talk about aggression, they are talking about something normal and humane, but do they really know what causes it? Do they know that there are many types of it? Chances are most people will experience one form of aggression or another in their lifetime. Aggression can be experienced by any individual, but mostly it is inflicted upon others by males. Usually, the recipients of this aggression are females due to their nature, although, males and females share many similarities as well as many differences. One of these differences would be a tolerance for aggression. As Bruce Svare says in his book, Hormones and Aggression, “among humans, males are more aggressive than females” (564). That is why I am focusing on male rather than female aggression. When I say male aggression, I do not simply talk about human beings, but also male animals, and specifically “primates”. There are many types of aggression and all of them are crucial to the argument that I am making. There is sexual aggression as in rape, violent aggression (physical) as in murder, or mental aggression to name a few. The big argument centers on whether aggression is caused by genetics or socialization. I found that environmental and hormonal factors have direct effects on aggression, thus the cause of aggression is both genetical and environmental or, in other words, “sociobiological.”


Hormones are often seen as factors in the way in which a person behaves. They are often blamed for certain acts of behavior in individuals. Testosterone is a hormone, which organizes a behavior during development, or activates a behavior under certain conditions (Bland). Many studies on male animals have proved this right, as the introduction as well as the removal of the testosterone has an effect on the aggressive behavior of individuals or animals alike. One example for that would be the sex criminals with histories of violent crimes who have been “castrated”, as they showed low rates for returning to their prior habits (Bland). In Deborah Blum’s The Gender Blur, the same result is verified when she states that “if you manipulate testosterone level-raising it in females, damping it down in males-you can reverse those effects, creating sweet little male monkeys and rowdy young females” (342). On the other hand, Bland states in his journal that “the conclusion that aggressiveness in rats and mice is controlled by the presence or absence of testosterone is not a straightforward one” (Bland). Moreover, when biologists write of aggression, they are writing about a precisely defined behavior, which may differ from one study to another. Thus one study would focus on sexual behavior while another might measure physical or mental behavior. Overall, anyone and everyone is capable of performing aggressive acts whether it is caused by testosterone or not. As one cannot rule out the fact that changing levels in hormones also results in aggressive behavior. That is why male aggression is not caused, solely, by biological reasons.


The environment revolving around us has a great affect on our lives. As the environment changes, human beings change. It is true that boys display more aggression than girls. Males are and have been more aggressive than females across time, societies, and species. What is more interesting is the argument about whether aggression or the “violent mind” is learned during a young age or not? Does love of carnage begin in culture or genetics, and which drives which? (Blum 339). Most people believe that the environment that revolves around a young kid would greatly influence his behavior later on. What you see now is what you will see in the future; only it will be a larger version. Blum explained it best when she quotes, “as the old saying goes, the child becomes the man (or woman, of course) (339).” If a kid was in an environment in which he was in a relationship with the same sex, then he would be more aggressive and would prefer rough playing rather than sitting and chatting with the girls. On the other hand, if a kid was born and raised with females, he would end up being softer and less aggressive as he would be engaged in “girly stuff”