Sport-Related Aggression, Violence, and Victimization
Aggression, violence, and victimization are remarkably dynamic terms. How these terms are understood and defined is shaped by formal and informal social policies and controls (Goldstein, 1986). Excluding assertiveness from the definition of aggression as it relates to violence, aggression can be considered to encompass behaviors intended to cause physical or psychological harm. Violence may be understood as an extreme form of aggression, in which the intent of the perpetrator is to cause serious harm (Berkowitz, 1993). Anthropological research on various non-western cultures demonstrates that aggression and violence are not necessarily inevitable, nor are they universal (Goldstein, 1986). Like words and manners, as Elias points out, the concepts transform over time, and vary across and within cultures (Fletcher, 1997).
Both aggression and violence are integral to an understanding of victimization. Victimization involves an attacker’s goal to maintain and impose their power and dominance (Berkowitz, 1993). Prior to more formal social organization, Elias (1986) argues that victims took the law into their own hands. Eventually, crime became seen as perpetrated against the state and not the victim, a development that pushed victims out of their criminal justice role. In keeping with the themes of dominance and power, Elias (1986) also suggests that specific groups, such as women, may be the target of social or cultural attitudes that perpetuate myths to justify victimization and, by extension, violence, by drawing on concepts such as Social Darwinism and a belief in a “just world.” Though animal studies have indicated that electrical stimulation to certain parts of an animal’s brain can provoke aggressive behavior, it is also important to note that such stimulation does not inevitably produce aggression. The environmental features present, such as the availability of a weapon, or a weaker target are also important precipitators of violence and the victimization that results (Goldstein, 1986).
In tracing the changing public perception of aggression among the secular upper classes of Western and European societies from the medieval period onward, Elias offers a compelling illustration of the dynamic nature of aggression (Fletcher, 1997). As standards of revulsion and morality surrounding different behaviors shifted, so too did perception of what did and did not constitute violent or aggressive behavior. The acceptability of aggression and violence varies greatly depending on what external or internal compulsions and social controls are dominant at any given time (Fletcher, 1997). The management of these drives varies intergenerationally, depending on the particular social requirements imposed. Goals and intentionality must also be taken into consideration when defining aggression and violence. Impulsive acts of aggression, as well as calculated aggressive acts with the expectation of benefits,...