Similarities and differences in impulsive/premeditated and reactive/proactive bimodal classifications of aggression

Julia C. Babcock, Andra L.T. Tharp, Carla Sharp, Whitney Heppner, Matthew S. Stanford

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Despite broad consensus regarding the value of the impulsive/premeditated and reactive/proactive aggression classifications, confusion as a result of imprecise language and the exact nature of subtypes have threatened its utility for clinical and research purposes. In order to increase the usefulness of these subtypes in research, prevention, and treatment, the current review examines whether differences in these two subtype classifications are theoretical, semantic or empirical. Correlates of impulsive, premeditated, reactive, or proactive aggression measures were examined for consistency. Based on the different conceptual roots, we expected that each subtype pair would evidence only partial correspondence such that the classification systems may actually be capturing different constructs. The findings of a targeted and selective review suggest there is more correspondence between reactive and impulsive aggression than there is between proactive and premeditated aggression. An agenda for future research is outlined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-262
Number of pages12
JournalAggression and Violent Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2014


  • Impulsive premeditated aggression
  • Proactive reactive violence
  • Violent subtypes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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