Do Aggressive Parents Yield Aggressive Children?

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Do Aggressive Parents Yield Aggressive Children?
Child aggression has been a long discussed subject of professionals everywhere may it be police officers, psychologists, therapists or school teachers. This subject has been given long term attention due to the impact on the child, society and victims. Parenting plays a major role in how a child is brought up and the kind of personality he develops. Children watch and observe their parents from birth and later on transfer these observed behaviors to actions. In return, however a child’s primary care giver acts is generally how a child will act towards peers and what one thinks is socially acceptable.

One form of aggression that has a damaging effect on children is marital aggression. Whether it be psychological and emotional or physical, marital aggression hinders a child’s sense of emotional security. A useful analogy is to think of emotional security as a bridge between the child and the world. When destructive conflict erodes the bridge, children may become hesitant to move forward and may lack confidence, or they may move forward in a dysregulated way, unable to provide appropriate footing within themselves or in interaction with others, increasing risk for problematic outcomes. (El-Sheikh 2008) In one study on marital aggression on children’s psychological and physical health indicated that marital aggression towards either the father or mother adversely affects a child’s ability to deal effectively with their own aggression. Findings of this study also conclude that witnessing aggression threatens a child’s goal of feeling safe and secure in their family. The ramification of this type of aggression even if the child is not directly witnessing the conflict is still as damaging on their emotional state as if the child was observing it first-hand due to the child being able to sense the aftermath.

Marital aggression does not always have to be physical or psychological. One term used by psychologists is relational aggression which has been defined as “harming others through purposeful manipulation and damaging (or threatening to damage) relationships and includes acts such as giving someone the “silent treatment,” threatening to end a friendship to get one’s own way, using social exclusion as a form of retaliation, or damaging another’s feeling of acceptance or friendship.” (Kuppens 2012) Children may see this form of subtle aggressive behavior as an effective way to achieve personal goals. Other research has also found that adolescents are more impacted by parental aggression than younger children which may be an effect of adolescents establishing their own sense of identity and autonomy.

Another form of aggression that is clinically shown to have negative impacts on a child is sibling aggression. If faced with a situation where one sibling is hitting another sibling, many parents would dismiss the behavior as a normal part of childhood development but research shows otherwise. “Sibling aggression predicts greater levels of emotional disturbances, behavior problems, delinquency, and future aggressive behavior in dating and intimate partner relationships. Increased verbal aggression in parent–child dyads has also been positively related to the frequency of arguments between siblings.” (Miller 2012) Children reacting to marital and parent-child violence may act out towards their siblings in times of frustration or anger since they perceive their actions are being socially acceptable and may also lash out at peers.

Last, aggression may be taken out not only on an intimate partner but on the child itself. ”Physical abuse refers to parents' use of physical violence to inflict pain and injury on their children, which is more severe than that allowed by laws for disciplining children (e.g., hit the child on some other part of the body besides the bottom with something like a belt).” (Xing 2011) The effects of physical parental punishment and...
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