1997 POL.it
Vol.3 Issue 1 Gennaio 1997

AGGRESSION

As a psychiatrist and a psychoanalyst I have been involved with aggression psychology-related issues since the very beginning of my practice.

For many years I have been doing research on early parent-offspring early attachment bonds, and have found that human relationships are deeply rooted in early development in several respects.
Naturalistic and experimental prospective studies have steadily shown that early attachments are positively correlated with adults' attitudes towards one's peers, one's children, parents, friends, close kin, spouses, communities, one's environment and cultural vogues and prejudices, one's views on current educational systems, one's views on politics and friendship, one's capacity to love and be loved, with cruelty, parenthood, aggressiveness, and so on.
As a clinician and researcher, I have adopted a multidisciplinary approach to relationships generally, and to aggressiveness or aggressive relationships, in particular as that advanced by Bowlby's Theory of Attachment.
As Seymour Feshbach (1987), states, early attachments and adult political ideology, patriotism, nationalism and internationalism are deeply related in that similar mechanisms mediate early attachments to caregivers and later attachment to one's culture and nation.
The tendency to equate nations with parental figures suggests that one's nation and government are often viewed in terms of parental imagery and that there is a similarity between affective attachment towards parents and affective attachments towards one's nation.
In fact, the primary question addressed in conversations with Professor Feshbach was the role of affect-related factors, particularly values, as possible mediators of individual differences in attitudes towards nuclear armament-disarmament issues. One such factor is value placed on children. Those individuals who have greater affection for children or who are more supportive of devoting national resources towards meeting children's needs being more supportive of nuclear disarmament and a nuclear test moratorium. Studying patriotic and nationalistic values, I learned that patriotism, but not nationalism, was found to be positively correlated with early paternal attachment while nationalism, but not patriotism, was found to be significantly related to pronuclear armament views. (Feshbach, 1989, 1992)
From a different vantage point -but equally related to aggression issues- I entered the field of the bully-victim problem in schools where I found that anxiously avoidant attached children were astoundingly prone to become bullies over anxiously resistant attached children (Ainsworth et al, 1978).
Several Attachment Theorists have related the phenomenon of bullying to pervasive pathological patterns of attachment enduring since the making of early affectional bonds. Using the Ainsworth Strange Situation test, administered at age 12 months, has enabled researchers to engage in prospective, longitudinal studies correlating quality of attachment at age 1 with bully/victim interactions at age 5-7. They found that anxiously attached infants equated positively with either bullies or victims 4-6 years later. Anxious-resistant children correlated with victims, whereas anxious-avoidant children correlated with bullies. Securely attached children did not correlate with either category. (Sroufe, 1988)

Four clear-cut actual interactions were found to occur: First, bullies usually victimized vulnerable, insecure children. Second, insecure children tended to become attached to their victimizers. Third, Secure children neither victimized nor were prone to be victimized. Fourth, bullies ocassionally victimized other bullies, who were found to be less cruel and less affectionately detached.
These studies have been enhanced and furthered into late childhoood and adolescence by Olweus in Scandinavia. On a large-scale study over more than 530,000 Norwegian students in elementary and secondary/junior high schools (grades 1-9; ages 7-16), about 15 % of the sample were found to be involved in bully/victim problems. Approximately 9 %, or 52,000 students were victims, and 41,000, or 7 % bullied other students regularly. About 9,000 students fell within the category of both victims and bully (1.6 %). (Olweus 1994).
Since the prospective studies mentioned above render early detection of both would-be bullies and victims possible, prevention of such phenomenal deployment of aggression and suffering in childhood is a necessary endeavour to be undertaken, insofar as the communities at large are made aware of the perils entailed by remaining passive in the face of anxiously attached infants, thus calling for government and non-government organizations to engage in preventative campaigns aimed at ensuring and strengthening parent-infant bonds.



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