The usefulness of distinguishing types of aggression by function


  • J. Martín Ramírez heads the Research Group on the Sociopsychobiology of Aggression, Institute of Biofunctional Studies and Psychobiology Department, Universidad Complutense de Madrid.
    His main areas of research include aggression in a wide range of animal species (from an interdisciplinary perspective), in humans (from a cross-cultural perspective) and in a wide variety of cultures in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. Professor Ramírez also studies the underlying psychological processes involved in various forms of aggression, with a special focus on sexual dimorphism; the moderating role of different contexts that predispose towards and are associated with violence. Professor Ramírez has recently researched political violence and terrorism, being research fellow with the International Security Programme, Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs, Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University.
    Related publications include J. Martin Ramírez, The Ulster Peace Process as an experience of peacebuilding, in Behavioral Sciences on Terrorism and Violence, 3(1), 2011, 72–76; Daniel Antonius, Adam D. Brown, Tali K. Walters, J. Martin Ramirez and Samuel Justin Sinclair (eds) Interdisciplinary Analyses of Terrorism, Cambridge Scholars Publishing (2010) and J. Martin Ramírez (2009) Some dichotomous classifications of aggression according to its function, in Journal of Organisational Transformation and Social Change 6(2), 85–101; J. Martin Ramírez, (2007) Peace through dialogue in International Journal on World Peace, 24(1), 65–81 and J. Martin Ramírez, (2007). Justification of aggression in several Asian and European countries with different religious and cultural background in International Journal of Behavioral Development, 31(1),: 9–15.


Far from being a universally defined notion, aggression is a changing and multifaceted phenomenon encompassing various concepts. There is no consensus as to how different types of aggression should be classified: multiple ways of doing so using a variety of criteria exist in the scientific literature. Some scientists categorise aggressive acts according to how they are expressed, while others prefer to look at motive, function, purpose and objective. Despite the claim of some authors that distinguishing between different types of aggressive acts is not always productive, categorising these according to different purposes and objectives can be very useful, both for developing theory and because such an approach serves forensic practice as well as preventive and therapeutic interventions, as these focus on the propensities and personality of the individual. Furthermore, given that the main functional classifications analysed show a common tendency to dichotomise, it would seem appropriate for their terminology and some of their measurement instruments to be standardised.