Social sanction and threat explanations of gender effects on direct and indirect aggression

Deborah R. Richardson, Laura R. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


The present study examined two explanations for gender differences in expression of direct and indirect aggression. The social sanction model suggests that aggressor and target gender effects may be accounted for in terms of social sanctions against behaving aggressively; indirect aggression is the likely outcome of inhibitions against expression of direct aggression. The threat argument suggests that high levels of direct aggression in male-male dyads as well as apparent inhibitions against harming females might be accounted for by the fact that males are more threatening targets than are females. Research participants completed a questionnaire measure of direct and indirect aggression twice, once with reference to their behavior toward a same-gender target and once with reference to their behavior toward an other-gender target. Although most direct aggression was reported by male aggressors toward male targets, gender of target did not relate to indirect aggression. Males reported approximately equal levels of indirect and direct aggression. Although females reported using more indirect than direct aggression, they did not differ from males in their reports of the frequency of use of indirect aggression. These results provided some support for both models of gender effects on human aggression and suggest the appropriateness of a relatively complex model of gender effects on aggression. Aggr. Behav. 25:425-434, 1999.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)425-434
Number of pages10
JournalAggressive Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Gender
  • Indirect aggression
  • Social sanction
  • Threat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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