Aggression in humans remains a substantial social problem. A number of theories have been constructed to explain aggression, and much research has focused on factors that affect aggressive behavior.

In the ethological approach, aggression is viewed as an instinctual system built into the organism independently of external stimuli. This aggression must be released through an appropriate releasing stimulus. The most influential instinctual theory is the concept of thanatos proposed by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). He theorized that two instinctual drives, eros (love instinct) and thanatos (death instinct), motivate human behavior. Thanatos manifests itself as aggressive behavior in daily living.

The other main theory comes from social learning and focuses on environmental influences. Albert Bandura focused on modeling processes that shape aggressive behavior and direct feedback in the form of reward and punishment. From social cognitive theorists comes the assumption that the social interpretation about which interpersonal behaviors constitute aggressive provocational retaliation is crucial for determining whether children will behave aggressively or not.

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