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Understanding aggressive behaviour across the lifespan

Authors

  • J. LIU PhD RN FAAN,

    Corresponding author
    1. Associate Professor of Nursing, Faculty Member of MPH at School of Medicine
    2. van Ameringen Professor in Nursing Excellence, Family and Community Health Department, School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA
      J. Liu, School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, 418 Curie Boulevard, Room 426, Claire M. Fagin Hall, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4217, USA. E-mail: jhliu@nursing.upenn.edu
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  • G. LEWIS BSE,

    1. Research Coordinator
    2. van Ameringen Professor in Nursing Excellence, Family and Community Health Department, School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA
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  • L. EVANS PhD RN FAAN

    1. van Ameringen Professor in Nursing Excellence, Family and Community Health Department, School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA
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  • This study is supported, in part, by NIH/NIEHS K01-ES015 877 and R01ES018858 to the first author.

  • No conflicts of interest have been declared by the authors.

J. Liu, School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, 418 Curie Boulevard, Room 426, Claire M. Fagin Hall, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4217, USA. E-mail: jhliu@nursing.upenn.edu

Abstract

Accessible summary

  • • Aggressive behavior is the observable manifestation of aggression and is associated with transitions across different developmental periods as well as a variety of medical and psychiatric disorders.
  • • This paper provides a brief review of the different biological, social, and environmental risk factors that may predispose individuals to aggressive behavior.
  • • In addition, this paper discusses the unique risk factors for aggressive behavior across the developmental spectrum, including childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and late life.
  • • Appreciation of the risk factors of aggressive behavior and how they relate to age-specific manifestations may aid the development of prevention and treatment programs.

Abstract

Aggressive behaviour is the observable manifestation of aggression and is often associated with developmental transitions and a range of medical and psychiatric diagnoses across the lifespan. As healthcare professionals involved in the medical and psychosocial care of patients from birth through death, nurses frequently encounter – and may serve as – both victims and perpetrators of aggressive behaviour in the workplace. While the nursing literature has continually reported research on prevention and treatment approaches, less emphasis has been given to understanding the aetiology, including contextual precipitants of aggressive behaviour. This paper provides a brief review of the biological, social and environmental risk factors that purportedly give rise to aggressive behaviour. Further, many researchers have focused specifically on aggressive behaviour in adolescence and adulthood. Less attention has been given to understanding the aetiology of such behaviour in young children and older adults. This paper emphasizes the unique risk factors for aggressive behaviour across the developmental spectrum, including childhood, adolescence, adulthood and late life. Appreciation of the risk factors of aggressive behaviour, and, in particular, how they relate to age-specific manifestations, can aid nurses in better design and implementation of prevention and treatment programmes.

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