Aggression motivation in prisoners: Association with cognitive and developmental differences

Ohlsson, Ioan Marc and Ireland, Jane Louise orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-5117-5930 (2020) Aggression motivation in prisoners: Association with cognitive and developmental differences. Abuse: An International Impact Journal, 1 (1). pp. 1-15. ISSN 2633-8742

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The study investigates aggression motivation and the cognitive and developmental profiles of aggressors. Participants were 210 adult male prisoners, in the UK. All completed measures of aggression motivation, cognitive schemas, aggression normative beliefs, and attachment. Developmental history was also examined. It was predicted that aggression motivation would comprise several motives, in keeping with previous research (i.e. protection, social recognition, positive outcome and pleasure motives). Disciplinarian parenting practice was predicted to associate with reactive aggression and permissive parenting practice with proactive aggression. Related to this, distinct attachment styles were also expected. Cognitive schemas and normative beliefs were predicted to be associated with aggression type. Results indicated that aggression motives comprised three factors; pleasure, protection and positive social outcome. There was thus some similarity to prior research but not complete consistency. Developmentally, reactive types reported more problematic childhood behaviours. Mixed motive types disclosed higher rates of positive childhood experiences, purposeful peer relationships, coupled with elements of severe parental discipline. Reactive and mixed types reported increased rates of fearful-avoidant childhood attachment. Mixed types were also found to have more normative aggression beliefs. Associations were established with maladaptive schemas; the proactive aggressor to an abandonment schema, reactive to a mistrust schema, and other schemas with mixed motive aggressors. Results are discussed with reference to theoretical and clinical implications.

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