Sex differences in childhood anger and aggression

Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am. 2004 Jul;13(3):513-28, vi-vii. doi: 10.1016/j.chc.2004.02.004.


There are few differences in the frequency or intensity of men's and women's self-reported or observed anger. Women are more likely to be angered by relationship conflicts than men. Men are more frequently the targets of anger than women. Typically, men see the expression of anger as exerting dominance, where as women view it as a loss of control. There are also sex differences in the mode of anger expression. At ages 8 and older, girls are more likely to engage in "relational" aggression (eg, deliberate social ostracism). The most consistent and salient difference in anger expression is women's tendency to cry when angry, whereas men are more likely to throw things or hit. The difference in physical aggression appears in children who are as young as 1 to 2 years of age. Despite an overall reduction in physical aggression after 2 to 3 years of age, the sex difference remains consistent into adulthood. In contrast to differences in physical aggression, differences in anger are few and inconsistent up to 4 or 5 years of age. By this age, girls tend to suppress the expression of anger consciously. By about 7 to 8 years of age, adult like differences become more consistent, with boys expressing more anger.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Anger*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*