Passive-Aggressive Behavior


A person with a passive-aggressive behavior pattern may appear to comply or act appropriately, but actually behaves negatively and passively resists. In the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, passive-aggressiveness is not officially characterized as a personality disorder. Instead, passive-aggressiveness is labeled as an area that needs further study.


The cause of passive-aggressiveness is unknown. There may be environmental and genetic factors that contribute to the development of this behavior pattern.
Prefrontal Cortex
Prefrontal cortex brain
This part of the brain is believed to control our ability to act in a way that is socially appropriate. Biological changes to this area may contribute to behavior patterns.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of passive-aggressive behavior include:
  • Childhood abuse or neglect
  • Harsh punishment


Passive-aggressive behavior includes:
  • Contradictory and inconsistent behavior—A person with this behavior pattern may appear enthusiastic to carry out others’ requests, but purposely performs in a manner that is not useful and sometimes even damaging.
  • Intentional avoidance of responsibility—Some behaviors that may be used to avoid responsibility include:
    • Procrastination—to delay or postpone needlessly and intentionally
    • Deliberate inefficiency—purposefully performing in an incompetent manner
    • Forgetfulness
  • Feelings of resentment toward others
  • Stubbornness
  • Argumentative, sulky, and hostile, especially toward authority figures
  • Easily offended
  • Resentful of useful suggestions from others
  • Blames others
  • Chronically impatient
  • Unexpressed anger or hostility

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