Studies of the prevalence of Type A Behaviour in identical and fraternal twins have shown that Type A is not inherited although some of its component behaviours, such as aggression and hostility, may be genetically determined. Other studies have shown that Type A Behaviour is learnt. Type A children, particularly boys, tend to have Type A parents. Researchers have shown that one of the ways in which children learn to behave in a Type A manner is by copying their parents.
A child’s upbringing can result in Type A Behaviour being manifested from an early age. If parents fail to provide unconditional love (love without pre-conditions) or set never-ending standards and expectations, then the child’s self-worth and self-esteem diminishes. At school the child seizes any opportunity to perform well to boost their low self-esteem. Soon, self-worth and self-esteem become measured by achievements, particularly where it is believed these are admired by parents and others. The struggle to achieve and to secure control over their environment continues into adult life, especially in their attempt to climb the career ladder. In doing so the individual has learned to behave in a way that can be selfdestructive in the long run.
Unlearning Type A Behaviour
So if Type A Behaviour is learned then it can be ‘unlearned’. Recent research has shown that Type A Behaviour can be modified and reduced. In one study, the Recurrent Coronary Prevention Project (RCPP), over a 1000 men and women who had already had one heart attack were recruited for a programme designed to modify their Type A Behaviour. The study set out to discover whether Type A Behaviour can be modified and whether such modification alters the risk of having a second heart attack. The recruits were divided into three main groups. Group 1 received the usual advice on what to do following a heart attack; for example, advice on diet, exercise and so on. Group 2 were given the same advice but also underwent a programme of Type A Behaviour modification. Group 3 was a control group; they received no treatment at all.
The Type A Behaviour modification counselling programme ran for one year and the fate of all the recruits in the study was followed in the succeeding three-and-a-half years. The results showed that Type A Behaviour can be modified and reduced. Further, those in Group 2 who significantly changed their Type A Behaviour reduced, by half, their chance of suffering a second heart attack (both fatal and non-fatal) compared to those in either of the other groups.
Another study by the same researchers demonstrated that Type A Behaviour can be modified in healthy individuals, thus indicating that Type As do not have to be ill to have the motivation to change their behaviour.
In both these studies the Type A Behaviour reduction was accompanied by a decrease in blood cholesterol level, suggesting that the participants were generating less stress for themselves and therefore less catecholamines. Furthermore, those who changed their Type A Behaviour became calmer and more in control of situations. They improved their self-esteem and sense of well-being. They became better listeners. They stopped trying to do too many things at once, so they could pay better attention to the particular task in hand. They were more pleasant to be with. Almost without exception they found that changes in their behaviour not only improved their family and social relationships but actually enhanced their careers!
So the popular image of a Type A individual who is ambitious, highly competitive, aggressive, hard-driving, a high achiever and therefore highly successful is not altogether true. The more relaxed, calmer, unhurried but still ambitious Type B individual proves to be just as successful, or more so, in the long run. The difference is that Type Bs achieve the same goals but without paying the price of ill health. Many companies have seen the benefits of Type A Behaviour modification. They have arranged Type A Behaviour treatment for their employees, recognizing that it improves their work efficiency and productivity as well as maintaining health. This clearly adds up to a substantial financial saving.
Most of us display some degree of Type A Behaviour so we can all benefit from taking a more Type B approach to life.
Reduction of your Type A Behaviour can be achieved only by examining your beliefs, attitudes and habits; those habits with which you have burdened your life. A chronic sense of time urgency or a tendency to become easily upset and angry over trivia must be discarded or modified. To do this you must substitute new, healthy beliefs for your bad, unhealthy ones. The RCPP objective for treating Type A Behaviour was to change Anger, Irritation, Aggravation and Impatience (AIAI) into Acceptance (of the errors yourself and of others), Serenity, Affection and Self-esteem enhancement (ASAS).