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Does sexual selection explain human sex differences in aggression?

  • John Archer (a1)
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X09990951
  • Published online: 01 August 2009
Abstract
Abstract

I argue that the magnitude and nature of sex differences in aggression, their development, causation, and variability, can be better explained by sexual selection than by the alternative biosocial version of social role theory. Thus, sex differences in physical aggression increase with the degree of risk, occur early in life, peak in young adulthood, and are likely to be mediated by greater male impulsiveness, and greater female fear of physical danger. Male variability in physical aggression is consistent with an alternative life history perspective, and context-dependent variability with responses to reproductive competition, although some variability follows the internal and external influences of social roles. Other sex differences, in variance in reproductive output, threat displays, size and strength, maturation rates, and mortality and conception rates, all indicate that male aggression is part of a sexually selected adaptive complex. Physical aggression between partners can be explained using different evolutionary principles, arising from the conflicts of interest between males and females entering a reproductive alliance, combined with variability following differences in societal gender roles. In this case, social roles are particularly important since they enable both the relatively equality in physical aggression between partners from Western nations, and the considerable cross-national variability, to be explained.

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