Much of human aggression is either adaptive or derived from adaptive strategies. Thus, it appears that patterns of violence have been shaped by natural selection. However, the question of whether a person’s propensity for aggression has become relatively low or high remains unresolved.
For theoretical, practical, and research purposes, aggression is often divided into subtypes. A distinction between reactive and proactive aggression is often used.
For example, reactively (impulsively) aggressive children behave aggressively in response to an imagined provocation or threat.
Reactive aggression can have a serious negative impact on people’s health and social adaptation. This can lead to a higher risk of problems such as anxiety and depression, the development of the major depressive disorder, substance abuse, and impaired social relationships (Hartley., 2018). Although reactive aggression exists in different age groups, it is most noticeable among teenagers.
Proactive aggressors are individuals who initiate aggressive behavior in advance and “in cold blood” with reward-oriented goal-achieving tools. Proactive aggressors may engage in physical or relational aggression. Intimidation offsets a form of proactive aggression in which individuals in positions of power engage in repeated aggressive actions to gain status or dominance.
Proactive aggression has its origins in social learning theory, according to which individuals learn aggressive behavior through secondary reinforcement and maintain aggressive behavior through its instrumental properties. Proactive and reactive aggression depend differently on gender and physiological arousal. Proactive aggression is associated with lower physiological arousal, particularly in males, whereas the opposite association is observed in females. Reactive aggressive behavior is the result of individual reactions to provocations, to which women are more sensitive and experience greater stress at higher levels of aggression. But selfishness seems to be a motivator for both types of aggression and both sexes.