Nature versus nurture had been a debate for decades. Nature refers to one’s inborn genetic traits that can lead to certain behavior, such as being an introvert, shy, or having a hot temper. On the contrary, nurture refers to one’s behavior and social traits being shaped by environmental factors, such as family relationships, friendship, religious institutions, or one’s working environment, and educational background (Morris and Maisto, 2016). In terms of aggressive behavior, researchers and experts have studied the causes of aggressive behavior. Some questions have been raised. Is aggressive behavior the result of one’s inborn genetic traits? Does aggressiveness result from one’s social, physical, and family environment? This paper will describe the issues surrounding nature versus nurture in terms of aggressiveness, the difference between genders in terms of aggression, and social influences on aggressive behavior. The essay will also discuss the recent shootings by Omar Mateen directed against the LGBTQ community.
According to Bettencourt and Miller (1996), without being provoked, men are naturally more aggressive than females. A possible reason for this has been described as, “The greater willingness of men to act aggressively in non-provoking situations may reflect this difference in biological predisposition. Alternatively, or additionally, male gender role norms may encourage aggression under conditions of minimal justification” . From this explanation, the authors are suggesting that nature and nurture contributes to aggression. Interestingly, when men and women in the Bettencourt and Miller (1996) meta-analysis study were provoked, the gender differences in aggressiveness were less.
I do feel that males are naturally more aggressive than females. The large majority of mass shootings, such as the Columbine shootings, the Oklahoma City bombings, the Boston Marathon bombing, and the tragedy at Virginia Tech were carried out by men. Most serial killers have also been males, such as Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Dennis Rader. It is quite rare to see a female serial killer, bomber, or mass shooter. That states to me that in terms of nature, males are naturally more aggressive. In terms of domestic violence, men are more likely to resort to it. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime; 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime” . Yet, I feel that other social factors play into aggression, these nurture factors bringing out some nature traits of aggression.
I think that one’s environment definitely influences how aggressive one is. I feel that the mass shooting of LGBTQ people in Orlando, Florida’s Pulse nightclub by gunman Omar Mateen is a prime example of how aggression and violence are created by one’s environment and nature. Mateen murdered 50 people and injured 50 other individuals with a handgun and an automatic rifle. Now deemed as the deadliest shooting in United States, the tragedy against the gay community forces people to take a look at why this horrific act occurred .
From hearing reports about Mateen on several news stations, it seems as if nature and nurture both factored into Mateen’s aggressiveness and violence, which supports the Confucian theory that nature and nurture are interdependent and both contribute to people’s actions (Murray, 2012). On one hand, Mateen’s ex-wife stated that Mateen was quite unstable and physically and verbally abusive during their marriage. This shows that Mateen’s inherent nature is more than likely aggressive. Mateen’s past co-worker also shared stories about Mateen, the co-worker saying that Mateen had an anger management problem. Mateen would frequently kick things, slap things, and was racist and misogynist. This shows that Mateen probably was naturally aggressive, which supports nature. Yet, it has also been reported that Mateen pledged his allegiance to the radical group ISIS, which feels that gay people are engaging in a vice and should be eradicated. The shooter’s father stated that Mateen was angry when he saw two men kissing in front of his 5-year old son . Mateen’s crime is being deemed as a hate crime and terroristic attack. Mateen’s religious and homophobic beliefs appear to have played into his behavior, which shows that nurture influenced Mateen’s aggressive and lethal behavior.
Nurture playing a major role in aggressiveness has been documented in research. One only needs to look at the Bobo doll study. In 1961, Alfred Bandura decided to conduct a study that examined how children model aggressive behavior. 36 boys and 36 girls participated in the study. 24 kids observed an adult treating a Bobo doll aggressively, such as hitting it with a hammer or throwing the doll. Another group of kids observed an adult ignoring the Bobo doll and playing in silence with toys. The last group did not see any models. The kids were given 20 minutes to play in isolation afterwards. The kids who saw the aggressive model were more aggressive in their play. However, boys participated in more physical aggression, which supports the nature theory of aggression. However, girls and boys had the same level of verbal aggression, which shows how nurture shapes aggressive behavior .
Aggressive seems to be both nature and nurture. The Bobo Doll study showed that both males and females reacted aggressively when seeing the modeled aggressive behavior, which supports the nurture theory. Yet, the fact that boys were more physically aggressive than girls suggests that boys are more physically aggressive by nature than girls. In the case of Omar Mateen’s massive shooting, elements of both nature and nurture seemed to be influence his lethal actions, his personality stated as naturally aggressive and angry. Yet, his likely affiliation with ISIS and his beliefs against homosexuality show how nurture can lead to aggression and violence. Hopefully, more research will conducted on aggression and gender in the future, so that acts of violence can be prevented.
- Bettencourt, B. A., & Miller, N. (1996). Gender differences in aggression as a function of provocation: a meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 422-447.
- Ciccarelli, S. K., & White, N. (2011). Psychology. Upper Saddle River: Pearson.
- Goldman, A. (2016, June 12). He was not a stable person’: Orlando shooter showed signs of emotional trouble. Retrieved from The Washington Post website : https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/ex-wife-of-suspected-orlando- shooter-he-beat-me/2016/06/12/8a1963b4-30b8-11e6-8ff7-7b6c1998b7a0_story.html
- Morris, C. G., & Maisto, A. A. (2016). Understanding psychology (11th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
- Murray, J. B. (2012). Educating Human Nature: “Nature” and “Nurture” in Early Confucian Moral Education. Journal of Moral Education, 41(4), 509-527.
- National Statistics. (2016). Retrieved from National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website: http://www.ncadv.org/learn/statistics