Deutsch: Physische Aggression / Español: Agresión Física / Português: Agressão Física / Français: Agression Physique / Italiano: Aggressione Fisica

Physical aggression in psychology refers to behaviour that causes or intends to cause physical harm or injury to another person. This type of aggression can include hitting, kicking, biting, or any other form of physical attack. It is a significant area of study in psychology due to its impact on individuals and society, and its relation to various psychological theories and disorders.


Physical aggression is a behaviour observed across different age groups and settings, from childhood playground fights to adult violent crimes. Psychologists study physical aggression to understand its causes, consequences, and potential interventions.

Causes of Physical Aggression:

  • Biological Factors: Genetic predispositions, neurochemical imbalances, and brain structure anomalies can contribute to aggressive behaviour.
  • Environmental Influences: Exposure to violent media, family conflict, and peer pressure can increase the likelihood of physical aggression.
  • Psychological Factors: Personality traits such as impulsivity, anger issues, and a lack of empathy are often associated with higher levels of aggression.

Consequences of Physical Aggression:

  • Personal Impact: Individuals who exhibit physical aggression may suffer from legal problems, social isolation, and difficulties in personal relationships.
  • Victim Impact: Victims of physical aggression can experience physical injuries, psychological trauma, and long-term emotional distress.
  • Societal Impact: High levels of physical aggression contribute to increased crime rates, healthcare costs, and societal fear.


  • Therapeutic Approaches: Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), anger management programs, and social skills training can help individuals reduce aggressive behaviour.
  • Preventative Measures: Early intervention programs, positive parenting techniques, and promoting non-violent conflict resolution can prevent the development of aggressive behaviour.

Special Considerations

Research on physical aggression must consider ethical implications, especially when involving vulnerable populations such as children or individuals with mental health issues. Ensuring the safety and well-being of participants is paramount.

Application Areas

Physical aggression is relevant in several areas within psychology, including:

  • Clinical Psychology: Assessing and treating individuals with aggressive behaviour disorders.
  • Developmental Psychology: Studying the emergence of aggressive behaviours in children and adolescents.
  • Forensic Psychology: Understanding the psychological factors behind criminal aggression and assisting in criminal profiling.
  • Social Psychology: Investigating the role of group dynamics and societal influences on aggressive behaviour.
  • Educational Psychology: Addressing bullying and aggression in school settings through intervention and prevention programs.

Well-Known Examples

  • Bobo Doll Experiment: Conducted by Albert Bandura, this study demonstrated that children could learn aggressive behaviours through observational learning.
  • The Columbine High School Massacre: An extreme example of physical aggression that led to significant research on the psychological profiles of school shooters and preventive measures.
  • Twin Studies on Aggression: These studies explore the genetic and environmental contributions to aggressive behaviour by comparing aggression levels in monozygotic and dizygotic twins.

Symptoms, Therapy, and Healing


Common symptoms of physical aggression include frequent outbursts of anger, physical fights, destruction of property, and threats of violence.


Treatment options for physical aggression often involve:

  • Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT): Helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviours.
  • Anger Management: Teaches techniques to control and express anger constructively.
  • Family Therapy: Addresses family dynamics that may contribute to aggressive behaviour.


The healing process for individuals exhibiting physical aggression involves developing healthier coping mechanisms, improving social interactions, and reducing the frequency and severity of aggressive outbursts. Continuous support from mental health professionals, family, and peers is crucial for long-term improvement.

Similar Terms

  • Verbal Aggression: The use of words to harm others, including insults, threats, and humiliation.
  • Relational Aggression: Behaviour aimed at damaging someone’s social relationships or status, such as gossiping or exclusion.
  • Reactive Aggression: An impulsive response to a perceived threat or provocation.
  • Proactive Aggression: A deliberate and planned behaviour aimed at achieving a specific goal, often without immediate provocation.


Physical aggression in psychology refers to intentional behaviours that cause physical harm to others. Understanding its causes, consequences, and treatment is essential for addressing this harmful behaviour. Research and interventions in various psychology fields aim to mitigate the impact of physical aggression on individuals and society.