With the rise of reported female violence worldwide, theories relating to the causes of aggression need to be rethought, according to a leading psychologist.
Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Charles Darwin University, Dr Peter Forster said that for years psychologists and others had blamed most anti-social violence on male aggression, and specifically on the hormone testosterone.
“There is a shift taking place at the moment and people are having to look at more causes for violence, specifically because the rise in female violence has been such a noticeable phenomenon,” he said.
Dr Forster said that people were now looking at other contributing factors, particularly at social and cultural factors such as the effects of several decades of feminism which have largely removed the expectation that women would behave differently to men, and, more recently, the binge-drinking culture among young people, for the rapid rise in female violence.
“Studies have shown that at the age of 14, girls were just as likely as boys to be involved in fights, threats and stealing,” he said.
“This is supported by studies at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, where they have found similar rates of binge drinking by men and women, and women are also catching up in the use of illicit drugs, and these behaviours are linked with aggression.
"Society has been removing inhibitions to violent behaviour by females. The argument that males are violent because they're driven by their testosterone fails when females behave as violently as males.”
Dr Forster said that if these suggestions were supported by further evidenced-based research, some major changes would need to be made to theories concerning the causes of aggression.
He also said that research into road rage supervised by one of his colleagues, Dr Mary Morris, has shown that the very clear gender differences which used to exist, skewed towards males as the main perpetrators, no longer do.
“The research by Dr Morris has clearly shown that, in such aspects of road rage as aggressive gestures, sounding their horn at another driver and verbal abuse, there is no significant difference between male and female drivers. There used to be differences, but not any more,” Dr Forster said.