Animal Cruelty, Antisocial Behaviour, and Aggression: More by Eleonora Gullone (auth.)

By Eleonora Gullone (auth.)

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Respondents who reported covering up their acts of animal cruelty were around four times more likely to have engaged in bestiality. Another noteworthy finding was that the inmates who reported engaging in multiple acts of animal cruelty were around three times more likely to be motivated by a desire to control the animals when compared to those who engaged in fewer acts. It is noteworthy that although Kellert and Felthous proposed a nine-motivation typology, their data highlighted that the animal cruelty was multidimensional, and one motivation alone was rarely reported by the participants in the study.

Many of the aggressive participants in Kellert and Felthous’ (1985) study reported being physically abused as children. Participants’ self-reports were supportive of displaced aggression, typically involving authority figures whom they reported hating or whom they feared so much that it prevented them from expressing their aggression directly. Their cruelty toward animals reportedly served as a displaced expression of the violence they experienced. As stated by Kellert and Felthous, “It is often easier in childhood to be violent toward an animal than against a parent, sibling, or adult” (p.

Whilst some authors have put forth subtypes of aggression such as instrumental versus hostile aggression, or proactive versus reactive, others have argued that such subtypes only add confusion to an already complex construct. Given that the subtypes are not necessarily mutually exclusive or distinct some have argued that it is more useful to characterize aggressive behaviours as varying along a number of identified dimensions including, for example, degree of hostile versus agitated affect or the degree to which likely consequences were or were not considered.

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