Anger is considered one of the primordial (earliest, most basic, most commonly experienced) emotions, along with fear, grief, pain, and joy.
Anger is a universal emotion, characterized by feelings of irritation or antagonism toward a person or object perceived as preventing a need from being met. It is often caused by the frustration of attempts to attain a specific goal or by perceived hostile or distressing actions such as verbal altercation, overt aggression, or threats by another.
Anger is perceived and expressed differently across cultures and throughout the lifespan. In infancy, anger is primarily the result of lack of prompt and appropriate response by the caregiver to a felt drive, such as need for nourishment, sleep, or a diaper change. Infants in some cultures also appear to experience anger when they are prevented from unrestricted movement.
Children commonly become angry due to their experience of restrictive rules or demands, lack of attention, or failure to accomplish a desired task. As children reach adolescence and adulthood, the primary sources of anger shift from physical constraints and frustrations to social ones. In adults, the bases of anger include social disapproval, deprivation, exploitation, manipulation, betrayal, and embarrassment or humiliation; responses to it generally become less physical and more social with maturity. The tantrums, fighting, and screaming typical of childhood and early adolescence give rise to more verbal and indirect expressions such as swearing and sarcasm. Physical violence does occur in adults, but in most situations it is avoided in deference to legal constraints, cultural norms, and social pressures.
People employ a variety of defense mechanisms to prevent the overt expression of anger. They may practice denial, refusing to recognize that they are angry. Another socially acceptable means of nonaggressively expressing anger is through passive aggressive behavior, such as sarcasm or chronic lateness (or absence). In academic or business settings, a passive aggressive individual may display behavior that is subtly uncooperative or disrespectful but provides no concrete basis for disciplinary action. Passive aggressive acts may even appear in the guise of a service or favor, when in fact the sentiments expressed are those of hostility rather than altruism. Some of the more extreme defenses against anger are paranoia, where anger is essentially projected onto others, and bigotry or discrimination, wherein such a projection is targeted at members of a specific racial, religious, cultural, or ethnic group.
See also Aggression ; Emotion ; Mood .
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American Psychological Association, 750 First St. NE, Washington, DC, 20002, (202) 336-5500, (800) 374-2721, http://www.apa.org .