Male values and male violence

Benson, David A. (2001) Male values and male violence. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The present study is an investigation of the relationship between male value systems and male interpersonal conflict, with particular emphasis upon inter-personal violence. The study adopts a naturalistic methodology (Archer 1995) and draws on concepts drawn from a range of disciplines that are integrated using an evolutionary analysis (Daly and Wilson 1988, Archer 1996). The triangulation of methods comprising case studies (study 1), questionnaires (studies 3 and 4) and ethnography (study 2), form the basis for a descriptive phase of research (Archer 1989) that enabled specific hypotheses to be formulated and tested using experimental methods (studies 5 and 6). The research findings from the questionnaires and ethnographic observations suggested that male values may constitute important determinants of male aggression reflected, for instance, in the utility of physical aggression to acquire and defend status and to confirm a masculine identity. The case studies demonstrated that male value systems provide insights into the causation of extreme acts of violence. The Fight Self Report (study 3) highlighted features of fights and that they were more likely to occur in or around pubs and night-dubs, the provocations that were most likely to lead to aggressive ads and how males are expected to behave in conflict situations. The ethnographic observations (study 2) provided insights into how males interpret information about potential opponents' perceived threats and challenges and how age, social support and alcohol consumption influence aggressive responses. The observations also generated data that indicates that inter-male conversations may have ritual elements and may be used to maintain and acquire status. The Masculinity Questionnaire (study 4) provided further insight into the type of provocation that may lead to physical aggression and attitudes to how certain provocations should be responded to.
The hypothesis testing stage of the project (studies 5 and 6) used questionnaires to manipulate Resource Holding Potential (RHP) and Provocation and to measure their influence on escalation of aggression. The study 5A demonstrated that young men are much less likely to indicate that they would respond to an insult with physical aggression if their opponent was
bigger than them, had more potential allies and had a reputation for being successful in the use of physical aggression, which represented high RHP. Conversely young men were much more likely to use physical aggression against an opponent of low or medium RHP. The Provocation Study (study 5B) demonstrated that incidents involving insults to a sexual partner were the most likely situation to provoke a young man into using physical aggression.
The final method used in the project, the Human Conflict Questionnaire (study 6), also manipulated RHP and Provocation and used measured variables that included not only physical aggression (as in study 5) but also a range of immediate and post-incident behavioural and cognitive responses. Principal Components Analyses identified three sub-scales, Direct
Aggression, Non-Provocation Behaviour and Negative Impact (post-event negative emotional responses). Scales derived from these factors were used as DVs in an ANOVA The analyses. indicated that a challenge from an opponent of higher RHP than oneself is likely to reduce the chance of reacting with physical aggression but to increase non-aggressive responses Including subsequent negative cognitive reactions. Conversely high provocation from opponents of lower RHP than oneself are more likely to lead to physical aggression, and less likely to lead to nonaggressive responses, and to subsequent negative emotions.
The findings of the various methods are interpreted using evolutionary concepts and a case is made for the existence of evaluative mechanisms in males that are used to assess RHP in other males and which may make males sensitive to status interactions with other men.

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