Aggressive and Impulsive Behaviors in Women: An Examination of the Relationship Between Aggressive Responding, Menstrual Cycle Phase, and Premenstrual Symptoms in a Laboratory Setting

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Mitchell E. Berman

Advisor Department



Very few studies have explored the relation between the menstrual cycle and aggression in a laboratory setting. These studies do not support the notion that aggressive responding fluctuates across the menstrual cycle. Rather, the results of these studies suggest that women who report more severe premenstrual symptoms are more aggressive. These laboratory findings are inconsistent with the results from several field studies, which show that aggression increases prior to menstruation (i.e., the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle). The purpose of the present study is to examine this relation under controlled laboratory condition while addressing some of the methodological shortcomings of previous studies. Specifically, the relationship among aggressive responding, reported premenstrual symptoms, impulsivity, and menstrual cycle phase across two phases of the menstrual cycle (follicular and luteal) is examined. Additionally, the potential moderating effect of trait aggression on the relationship between aggressive responding and premenstrual symptoms was examined. The Taylor Aggression Paradigm, a laboratory measure of aggression, was used to assess the relation between reported menstrual symptoms on the Menstrual Distress Questionnaire (MDQ) and aggressive responding in 105 women. Luteinizing Hormone (LH) ovulation home test kits was used to ensure accurate demarcation of menstrual cycle phase. Results indicated that neither menstrual cycle phase nor pre-menstrual symptoms was related to aggressive behavior in women. Trait aggression did not serve as a moderator between either phase or symptoms and aggression. Trait aggression in women, however, was positively related to aggressive responding, particularly under higher levels of provocation.