Does Frustration Lead to Aggression?

Fox and Spector (1999) have described one of the simplest and easily validated ideas of why conflict occurs. People can become frustrated, and when they do, often they become angry, and then subsequently, become aggressive. Therefore, frustration is often the cognitive trigger for aggression and the resulting conflict. Each conflict is highly contextually dependent, but this link between frustration and aggression is visible in most conflicts as a common theme.

Often because of people’s own concepts of self and others, they will tend to assign blame to others. The other party does the same, and then, the conflict grows deeper. For the conflict resolution professional, it becomes a critical role to alleviate the frustration of the parties. Although the strength of this theory is that it simply explains a cognitive proximate cause of most conflicts, it does not provide a way to deal with the frustration. This is the Frustration-Aggression hypothesis’ major weakness as alleviating the source of everyone’s frustration can be the most difficult challenge to truly addressing the conflict.


Fox, S., & Spector, P. E. (1999). A model of work frustration-aggression. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 20(6), 915-931.