An investigation of the mechanism underlying teacher aggression: Testing I 3 theory and the General Aggression Model Academic Article uri icon


  • Considerable research has investigated the deleterious effects of teachers responding aggressively to students who misbehave, but the mechanism underlying this dysfunctional behaviour remains unknown.This study investigated whether the mechanism underlying teacher aggression follows I3 theory or General Aggression Model (GAM) metatheory of human aggression. I3 theory explains exceptional, catastrophic events of human aggression, whereas the GAM explains common human aggression behaviours.A total of 249 Australian teachers participated in this study, including 142 primary school teachers (Mdn [age] = 35-39 years; Mdn [years teaching] = 10-14 years; 84% female) and 107 secondary school teachers (Mdn [age] = 45-49 years; Mdn [years teaching] = 15-19 years; 65% female).Participants completed four online self-report questionnaires, which assessed caregiving responsiveness, trait self-control, misbehaviour provocation, and teacher aggression.Analyses revealed that the GAM most accurately captures the mechanism underlying teacher aggression, with lower caregiving responsiveness appearing to indirectly lead to teacher aggression via higher misbehaviour provocation and lower trait self-control in serial, controlling for gender, age, years teaching, and current role (primary, secondary).This study indicates that teacher aggression proceeds from 'the person in the situation'. Specifically, lower caregiving responsiveness appears to negatively shape a teacher's affective, cognitive, and arousal states, which influence how they perceive and interpret student misbehaviour. These internal states, in turn, appear to negatively influence appraisal and decision processes, leading to immediate appraisal and impulsive actions. These results raise the possibility that teacher aggression is a form of countertransference.

publication date

  • 2017