The theory states that aggression is the result of blocking a person’s efforts to achieve a goal. There are several modifications of the frustration theory presented in the works of L. Berkowitz, R. Gin, E. Donnerstein, S. Feshbek and others. At the first formulation, the hypothesis was that frustration always precedes aggression, and aggression is an inevitable consequence of frustration. Frustration was recognized as a necessary and sufficient condition for the emergence of aggression. J. Dollard suggested that the successive frustrations can be cumulative, and this generates aggressive reactions of greater force. However, Miller and Sears reformulated this hypothesis, suggesting that while frustration creates a need for response, some form of aggression is just one of the possible outcomes. Thus, the reformulated hypothesis states that although frustration induces behavior that may or may not be aggressive.
This hypothesis also attempts to explain the cause of the violence. The theory states that frustration causes aggression, but when the source of frustration cannot be refuted, aggression is transferred to an innocent target. For instance, if a man is not respected and humiliated by his boss, but he cannot respond due to fear of losing his position, he can shift his anger and frustration onto his family members.
This theory is also applied to explain riots and revolutions caused by disadvantaged groups of society that express their frustration and anger through violent acts. While some scientists have criticized this hypothesis and proposed mitigating factors between frustration and aggression, several studies confirmed this as it is.
In the theory of frustration, aggression is interpreted as an internal predisposition, which is activated by external stimuli, as an outward manifestation of internal tension and anxiety.