Types of Aggression in Children

by Doug Hewitt

Aggression in children can present problems for parents, caregivers, teachers and school administrators. Understanding the different types of aggression may help you to come up with a strategy for dealing with a child's aggressive behavior. Aggression can be manifested in different ways ranging from teasing and bullying to the more horrific manifestations such as high school shootings. According to Henri Parens, a psychiatry professor at Jefferson Medical College, childhood aggression comes in four types.

Nondestructive Aggression

Parens observed a five-month-old girl who was fascinated with a toy composed of plastic rings. The toy was out of her reach, and the girl became aggressive in her attempts to reach the toy. This type of aggression is drive that helps children and adults excel in academics and sports. It stems from children's desire to master themselves and their environment. Parens argues that this type of aggression should be cultivated by parents.

Survival Aggression

Another type of aggression stems from the human need for food or other resources necessary to survival. It comes from the survival instinct, and it is a necessary type of aggression, according to Parens. He argues that it is inborn and an essential aspect of the human make-up for survival and adaptation.

Displeasure-Related Aggression

This type of aggression is a hostile aggression that stems from displeasure. For example, temper tantrums and rage reactions fit into the behavior of displeasure-related aggression. Parens notes that the amount of hostile aggression that children display is influenced to a large degree by how their parents treat them. Abuse from parents, whether emotional, physical or sexual, can be a trigger for hostile aggression in the children.

Pleasure-Related Aggression

This type of aggression. also a hostile aggression, stems from the pleasure a child gets from the aggression. As with displeasure-related aggression, pleasure-related aggression is not inborn and can be triggered by emotional pain. Parens argues that the best way to prevent aggressive behavior in children is to not behave in hostile ways with the children, so that they have no model for this disturbing behavior.

About the Author

Doug Hewitt has been writing for over 20 years and has a Master of Arts from University of North Carolina-Greensboro. He authored the book "The Practical Guide to Weekend Parenting," which includes health and fitness hints for parents. He and his wife, Robin, are coauthors of the "Free College Resource Book."