Jane L. Ireland (School of Psychology, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, United Kingdom.)

Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research

ISSN: 1759-6599

Article publication date: 11 July 2016



Ireland, J.L. (2016), "Editorial", Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Vol. 8 No. 3. https://doi.org/10.1108/JACPR-04-2016-0226



Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Volume 8, Issue 3.

Welcome to Issue 8.3 of the Journal of Aggression Conflict and Peace Research. We commence the edition with a novel paper by Philip Birch and Peta Kennedy on human directed aggression by pet dogs. The paper is interesting since the relationship between man and dog is well established, more so than between any other animals. It is a relationship that has long been written about and I am reminded of the quote by the author Rudyard Kipling "When the man waked up he said, What is Wild Dog doing here? And the woman said, his name is not Wild Dog anymore, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always". So what happens when this quote no longer holds true and dogs attack humans? This is the focus of the paper by Birch and Kennedy in a small scale qualitative study, which highlights the similarities between human directed pet aggression and other forms of aggressive behaviour and argues for educational programmes on dog ownership. The latter is an interesting issue to consider since there is perhaps an assumption that the longevity of the relationship between human and dog somehow lends itself to an innate or inherited ability to understand how to interact with this domesticated but nevertheless uninhibited creature whose inability to manage impulse is well recognised. Yet, as this paper suggests, humans (particularly when young) are far from attuned to the warning displays presented by dogs. The edition then moves us from dogs to children, focusing on the more subtle forms of aggression that children become involved in and illustrating a form of aggression that our four legged friends do not have a preference or ability for. Renee Denham et al. present a large scale study on indirect aggression among children and adolescents. Indirect aggression has been studied for many years and is far from a new topic, although there are variations in terminology. Being an aggression researcher my preference has always been for the term indirect aggression to recognise the pioneering work of Kaj Björkqvist in this area, work that has perhaps not always been fully recognised by some authors. The authors of the current paper focus on two discrete aspects of such aggression; teasing and social exclusion. Its contribution lies in the focus on discrete types of aggression, an area which aggression researchers have argued is more valuable than considering more global behaviours and failing to look at the individual behaviours that it comprises. Thus it is of value and what is of further interest about this work is not just the focus on discrete forms of aggression but also the frequency of this (this is not commonly considered) and the fact that parents are less likely to identify the peer difficulties that their children are experiencing. The latter suggests a need to explore with parents their understanding of what such aggression comprises and why it is important to recognise it as aggression.

Following this paper is one by Amos Fleischmann that shifts focus from aggression between peers to aggression displayed by teachers towards pupils under the guise of punishment. The concept of punishment is a challenging one both conceptually and also morally, with views concerning the appropriateness of this (and lack of success of it) likely to promote lively debates. The value of the Fleischmann paper lies not in this more debated area but rather in how punishment is applied to those pupils who have acted in self-defence against their peers. It is interesting as it begins to consider the role of attribution of blame and how this influences a teacher’s judgement in terms of punishment. The notion of a "right" to self-defence is articulated well in the paper. Forensic practitioners will know that arguing that aggression was "for self-defence", "I was acting in self-defence" can be commonly put forward by our clients to minimise their actions or diffuse responsibility. Equally, within law there is a recognised degree of mitigation attached to defending yourself. Nevertheless, a common theme that can be drawn across these areas is the notion of proportion, specifically is the act of defending yourself in proportion (and reasonable) to the act perpetrated against you. Although this is an area that is not really captured in the paper it is nevertheless useful in terms of driving future research that can perhaps address this area in more detail. What Fleischmann does well is highlight the value of considering this research and the complexities involved.

This brings us onto a paper that touches again upon the area of defence and morals, but this time from the perspective of vigilantism. Christine McDermott and Monica Miller discuss the role of individual differences, moral disengagement and responses to vigilantism. It is of value since this is an area that does not receive much attention academically aside from that focused on the history and development of vigilantism and legal challenges. Vigilantism is far from a new topic and is enshrined in history and pop culture – you only have to consider famous characters from gothic novels, such as V (from Vendetta), and "superheroes" (e.g. Batman; Ironman; Arrow; Avengers, etc.) to recognise that there is a degree of acceptance of such roles and glamorisation of these. What is particularly valuable with McDermott and Miller’s paper is their focus on individual differences and moral judgement in enacting what remains an illegal activity. Indeed, the authors make reference to the concept of extralegal violence, which captures in very basic terms how such behaviour presents. One of the most valuable elements of this paper was the discussion that it dedicates to moral disengagement and the work of Bandura in this regard, in particular displacement and diffusion of responsibility, dehumanisation, etc.; and the attention to cognition in the form of rationalisation. It reminds me of the similar application of such concepts to collective violence more broadly, including mass violence and atrocities. I would consider the paper to be a valuable addition to this area of research as well as that considering more individualised and smaller-scale acts.

This brings the edition to a paper by Christine Murray, Rick Bunch and Eleazer Hunt that considers the mobilisation of community level understandings to intimate partner violence, thus building on the theme of community action. It considers how the community and neighbourhood can impact on rates of such violence using geographic information systems (GIS) to analyse these influences. The use of GIS is an interesting method and the paper helpfully sets out what steps should be proceeded through for successful application of this approach. The paper does not offer empirical data and is presented as a conceptual piece designed to outline a method to capture what we mean by community influences. This is important as we have seen from the earlier papers that individual differences fail to provide a complete picture when trying to understand and predict violence and yet our means of capturing empirically the influences beyond the individual are arguably limited. For this reason alone GIS is a useful method to at least consider. What I particularly liked about the paper was the attention that it gives to social contagion theory, a theory not commonly referred to and yet one that remains useful to consider. It also articulates well the arguments for considering neighbourhood and community influences. The step-by-step approach that the paper takes in application of GIS will be useful to researchers who are considering its application.

The final paper focuses on peace agreements and in doing so adopts a more "legal" approach to a wider community problem, in this instance the peace process between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The paper, by Gene Carolan, brings the edition to a close by presenting what is one of the most complex applications of our work – namely, applying the principles of intervention and peace to a real-life and large scale problem that can seem insurmountable. The paper provides a good outline of what components of an agreement promoted peace and made it resilient to factors that could have prevented the peace process from continuing. Carolan essentially proposes a template for a peace agreement that is enshrined in a careful review of the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and concludes by stating "[…] should the CAB endure, it will continue to offer hope to the Moro and Filipino peoples trying to escape decades of conflict, and may serve as inspiration to those trying to escape a similar plight in Ukraine and Syria". This is clearly a commendable aim to have and a positive one to end on.

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