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

Aggression and Violent Behavior

Volume 19, Issue 3, May–June 2014



•The literature on subtypes of aggressive behavior is reviewed.

•The proactive/reactive and premeditated/impulsive distinctions are compared.

•The correlates of proactive and premeditated aggression are examined.

•The correlates of reactive and impulsive aggression are examined.

•Careful consideration of scales based on question of interest is recommended.


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.





Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee