Example of institutional aggression - deprivation model

A set of cards for the deprivation model of aggression which can be used as an explanation for institutional aggression

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  • Institution itself plays a major role in prisoner's aggressive behaviour
  • Situational factors build to this
  • Organisation (Leadership, management)
  • Physical (Security level)
  • Staff characteristics (gender, level of experience)
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  • Sykes (1958) believed that prisoners behaviour and subcultures develop from within the prison not from their social histories or dispositions
  • He outlined 5 deprivations which are thought to lead to aggressive behaviour within a prison
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Deprivation of liberty

  • Imprisonment informs they aren't trusted to live in free world
  • Morally rejected by society
  • Given numbers and uniforms
  • Civil rights are lost
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Deprivation of autonomy

  • Officials have control over prisoner's behaviour
  • Feel helpless because of this
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Deprivation of goods and services

  • Western culture emphasises posessions
  • Deprivation is hard to bear
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Deprivation of heterosexual relationships

  • Male-female relationships important
  • Help develop self identity
  • Denial of this reduces self worth
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Deprivation of security

  • Fear for own safety
  • Other inmates perceived as aggressive
  • Leads to heightened sense of physical threat
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Supporting research

  • Johnstone 1991
  • Found that prison overcrowding leads to increased competition for resources
  • Leads to tendency to adopt violent defensive behaviours
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Arguments for nurture

  • Research to support model
  • Jiang and Fisher studied 431 disciplinary reports from a US prison and found that the situational model best explained their aggression
  • This suggests that the deprivation model of aggression is reliable
  • A large sample size was used
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Arguments against nurture

  • A prisoner brings in specific dispositional characteristics that make it likely that they will display aggression within prison
  • Importation Model, Harer and Steffensmeier - found that black inmates had higher rates of violent behaviour than white inmates. 
  • Patterns parallel to racial differences in society
  • Prison is just where aggression is displayed not necessarily the cause
  • Suggests it is due to dispositional factors
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Arguments against a situational explanation

  • Does not take into account riots that erupt with no situational factors
  • Levels of deprivation remain fairly constant in prison yet violence can erupt suddenly
  • Might be more appropriate to focus on levels of relative aggression rather than absolute deprivation
  • Doesn't take into account all types of aggression in prisons
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Unexplained motives

  • A lot of prison aggression has unexplained motives making it difficult to conduct research
  • Light - 25% of prison assaults had no apparent reason
  • Gottman - prisoners often attempt to hide motives behind aggressive actions
  • Can't make firm conclusions as information is unknown making evidence lack internal and external validity
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  • Doesn't take into account nature
  • Only considers life inside prison and doesn't mention how people have been brought up or their individual differences
  • Theory is reductionist
  • To fully understand aggression life inside and outside prison should be considered
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