Aggression as an Adaptive Response

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Aggression as an adaptive response
Evolutionary explanations, such as aggression as an adaptive response, suggest that aggressive
behaviour occurs due to the advantage it provides in surviving and reproducing.
Mate retention strategies
We compete for partners who are potential mating partners which can lead to feelings of jealousy
which can then lead to aggressive behaviour. Males are always unsure whether offspring is
biologically theirs compared to a female. To keep their sexual partners and ensure the offspring is
theirs, males develop mate retention strategies such as `mate guarding'. For example, prohibiting
interaction with other males or restricting autonomy (independence) by removing the female's
phone. Females gain resources and security for them and their offspring and therefore do not want
to lose resources to other females. When they are suspicious of their partner, they may feel jealous
which will lead to aggressive behaviour either to deter females or punish the male.
Avoiding cuckoldry
Cuckoldry is defined as convincing someone that the child is their own. E.g. females may be in a
relationship with someone of high status but obtain genes from elsewhere. This is used to gain
sufficient resources and `good' genes. It is a high risk strategy but can be beneficial. This is bad for
men who are wasting resources and reproductive opportunities therefore men fear cuckoldry. They
become jealous of other males therefore use mate retention strategies which can lead to
aggression. Jealousy is therefore adaptive.
Buss and Shackleford
They found gender differences in mate retention strategies supporting the evolutionary theory.
They found that males tend to make intersexual threats e.g. `I'm going to beat him up'.
Debasement- lowering themselves to suit mate.
Women tend to use verbal possession signals such as threats to punish infidelity.
They also found more strategies were used if the relationship is between an older male and
younger female.
Shackleford et al (2005)
They looked at relationships between mate retention strategies and violence towards female
partners. They found a positive correlation between mate guarding and violence towards partners.
Therefore there is a link between aggression and adaptive strategies supporting the evolutionary
Correlational not causal- Cannot establish a cause and effect relationship
Lack of information- Doesn't control for actual relationship threats

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Dobash and Dobash- They found that 1 in 4 women experienced violence from their current or
ex-partners with the reason being jealousy. These findings support the theory because it expresses
a link between jealousy and aggression.
Camilleri- They found that the risk of partner's infidelity predicted the likelihood of sexual
coercion in men and not women. Sexual coercion is the use of threats and violence to persuade their
partner to have sex.…read more


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