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Study Notes

Aggression: Evaluating Dispositional Explanations


Last updated 22 Mar 2021

The study notes follow on from the 'Aggression: Dispositional Explanations' notes.

Adams (1981) found that in American prisons, black inmates were more likely to be associated with violent acts in comparison to white inmates. The argument for this is that black prisoners tended to come from poorer backgrounds with higher rates of crime, and so imported their cultural norms into the prison supporting the dispositional explanation of aggression.

Gaes et al. (1988) studied 82,000 prisoners in US prisons and found prisoners with Hispanic origins were more violent than those with a non-Hispanic origin. Also prisoners with Asian origins were less likely to be violent than those who were non-Asian. This research supports the view that culture and consequently ethnicity are factors that can contribute to aggression being imported into the prison institution.

However, DeLisi (2004) studied 813 male inmates in US prisons and found no correlation between violence in prisons and previous gang membership. Therefore, there is conflicting research support for the dispositional explanation. The importation model predicts that violence and aggression is introduced by individuals with a culture of aggression in their lives. It would be expected that gang members would be more likely to display aggression inside prisons, but DeLisi (2004) found no evidence to support this prediction.

Most of the research has been undertaken on male prisoners so very little is known about reasons for female violence in prisons. It would be androcentric to presume the same reasons for male violence can be used to explain female violence. There may be other factors involved that can result in female prison aggression. Therefore, the research can be accused of exhibiting a beta bias. It may be that males import aggression into the prison environment, but there may be differences to the extent that dispositional or situational factors affect each gender.

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