explanations for institutional aggression

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Sarah walker
Discuss one or more explanations of institutional aggression (25) marks
Institutional aggression is aggression that occurs in any form of institution e.g. prison. Two
models that have been proposed to explain institutional aggression are the deprivation model
and the importation model.
The deprivation model looks at the prisoner's deprivation whilst in prison as a cause for
aggression, perceived and real deprivations and environmental factors such as noise,
temperature, crowding and lack of freedom can all cause stress which can trigger extreme
emotional responses such as aggression. This model therefore states that an individual who is
not normally aggressive can be made to behave aggressively due to the environmental factors
within the institution.
Most of the research into the situational model has been carried out in prisons and this model
has a lot of support. Sykes stated that the institutional aggression within prisons was due to the
deprivations that prisoners were subjected to, he outlined 5 deprivations such as loss of
autonomy, liberty, security, relationships and forced near poverty lifestyles that lead to stress
and said that this stress causes prisoners to act aggressively. Aggression could also be seen as a
way of gaining some control over the over their life's opposed to the strict conditions imposed
upon them in prisons. This model could also explain aggression in other institutions like schools
and hospitals where patients and pupils could become aggressive as a means of exerting some
level of authority in situations where they feel they have no control e.g. lengthy waiting lists and
unfair rules.
Zimbardos prison experiment supports the role of environment on aggression in otherwise
rational people, when the guards were in the prison they acted extremely aggressively towards
the prisoners were outside the prison they were not aggressive people suggesting the
environment of the prison triggered the aggression supporting the deprivation model. However it
is argued that the deprivation model doesn't explain sudden outbursts and riots that occur in
prisons when there has been no environmental change. This has lead to research in to perceived
deprivation rather than actual deprivation as a factor. Megargee found a negative correlation
between aggressive behaviour and space per prisoner, this doesn't support the deprivation
models basic assumptions however this result may be due to the fact prisoners are more strictly
monitored in overcrowded prisons meaning there is less opportunity for aggression. Another
fining that doesn't support this model was conducted by Poole et al, poole found that the best
indicator for violence in 4 juvenile prisons was pre institutional violence suggesting that the
person was aggressive before prison suggesting that the environment was not the cause of the
aggression and supports the importation model instead. However this study only looked at
juveniles in so the results cannot be generalised to other age groups as juveniles may behave
differently due to their age.
The importation model claims that aggression occurs within institutions because of the
characteristics of the individuals within the institution. Personal and psychological characteristics
are brought into the institution by the individual and these characteristics determine how much

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Sarah walker
aggression each individual displays. If there are enough individuals who were aggressive before
prison then this will become the norm and aggression will be more likely.
Most of this research has been carried out within prisons and has produced evidence to support
the model. Many inmates in prisons have may have characteristics that would predispose them
to aggressive behaviour.…read more


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