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Parenting and Children’s Aggression: The Role of Self-Regulation

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Carolina\'s Pyschological Conference April 2010

Carolina\'s Pyschological Conference April 2010


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  • 1. Parenting and Children’s Aggression: The Role of Self-Regulation Kim Jordan, Morgan McNally Christian Shelton, Margaret Laney Katie Proffit Department of Psychology North Carolina State University Carolinas Psychology Conference, 2010
  • 2. The problem of childhood aggression
    • Children who are aggressive toward peers are at risk for long-term failure in many domains of functioning.
    • Specifically, aggressive children tend to experience:
      • Peer rejection
      • School drop out
      • Involvement in delinquent behavior
      • Substance use and abuse
      • Depression & other mental health problems
    • To successfully prevent childhood aggression, we must have a good understanding of the causes of children’s aggressive behavior.
  • 3. The problem of childhood aggression: Causes
    • Parents serve as models of social interactions for young children. Children learn how to interact with others from watching their parents.
    • Parents who are harsh are likely to have children who imitate that aggressive style with peers.
    • In contrast, children of sensitive and responsive parents are less likely to be aggressive; those children are more prosocial with peers.
    • Walters, R.H., Brown, M. (1963). Studies of reinforcement of aggression: III. Transfer of responses to an interpersonal situation. Child Development, 34 (3), 563-571.
  • 4. The Proposed Model
    • Parenting
    Child Aggression
  • 5. The problem of childhood aggression: Causes
    • Does harsh parent behavior directly cause child aggression? If so, we should develop interventions to reduce harsh parenting and increase sensitive parenting.
    • Or… does parenting impact children’s social competence indirectly through the influence of parent behavior on some other variable that leads to aggression?
  • 6. The problem of childhood aggression: Causes
    • Does harsh parent behavior directly cause child aggression? If so, we should develop interventions to reduce harsh parenting and increase sensitive parenting.
    • Or… does parenting impact children’s social competence indirectly through the influence of parent behavior on some other variable that leads to aggression?
    • What could that variable be?
    • Perhaps it is children’s self-regulatory abilities.
  • 7. What is self-regulation?
    • Closely monitoring and carefully adjusting experiences of and reactions to challenging situations. Examples of these challenges are a disappointment, a difficult test, or a peer provocation.
    • The process of acquiring self-regulation of emotion and behavior is critical in children’s development.
  • 8. Parenting shapes children’s self-regulation
    • Parenting is known to influence many aspects of children’s self-regulation, including:
    • Encoding social cues
    • Understanding consequences of one’s behavior
    • Selective attention
    • Sustained attention
    • Ability to shift focus
    • Affect regulation
    • Behavioral inhibition
    • Lansford, J.E., Dodge, K.A., Pettit, G.S., Criss, M.M., Shaw, D.S., Bates, J.E. (2009). Trajectories of physical discipline: Early childhood antecedents and developmental outcomes. Child Development, 80 (5), 1385-1402.
  • 9. Parenting shapes children’s self-regulation
    • So, perhaps children’s emotional and behavioral dysregulation is the most important target of intervention for programs designed to address child aggression.
    • Programs to change parenting might be secondary.
  • 10. Impact of Self-regulation on Child Aggression
    • In fact, children’s inability to regulate their emotions and behavior is associated with many aspects of maladjustment, including:
    • Low academic achievement
    • Depression & low self-esteem
    • Substance abuse
    • AND…high rates of aggression toward peers.
    • Baumrind, D., & Black, A.E. (1967). Socialization practices associated with dimensions of competence in preschool boys and girls. Child Development, 38, 291-327.
    • Lasky, M.R. (1993). Family genesis of aggression. Psychiatric Annals, 23, 494-499.
  • 11. Self-regulation as a Mediator
    • Given this body of research, we proposed that parenting impacts child aggression indirectly , through the influence of parenting behavior on children’s self-regulation.
    • In other words, we expected that self-regulation would mediate the relation between parenting and child aggression.
  • 12. The Proposed Mediation Model
    • Parenting
    Child Aggression Self-Regulation
  • 13. Methods: Participants
    • 92 children and one of their parents, recruited from child protective services
    • 95% mothers; Mean age = 32.7 yrs
    • 62% boys; Mean age = 5.38 yrs
    • 71% African American
    • Full range of SES; 60% at lowest levels
    • levels
  • 14. Methods: Constructs & Measures IV Parenting Mediator Self-Regulation DV Child Aggression
  • 15. Constructs & Measures
    • Parent Behavior
    • Parenting was observed during 30 minute parent-child interactions in the lab setting (Cox 1997) .
    • Rating scale = 1-7 on each dimension. High inter-rater agreement.
    • Dimensions include:
    • Positive regard for the child
    • Sensitivity to child’s needs and signals
    • Negative regard for the child
  • 16. Constructs & Measures
    • Parent Behavior
    • Parenting was also measured by parent report of their use of harsh disciplinary strategies (e.g., slap, hit, push, grab, shake).
    Conflict Tactics Scale (Straus, 1990). Possible range of scores is 11-33, with higher scores representing more frequent use of harsh discipline.
  • 17. Constructs & Measures
    • Child Self-Regulation
    • Children were asked to complete a puzzle inside a box (Eisenberg et al, 2001) . They were told to insert their arms through holes in the front of the box to work on the puzzle. Also told not to peek in the box.
    • Indicators of self-regulation include:
      • % of time (seconds) actively working on the puzzle
      • % of time cheating
      • Number of cheating strategies used (range = 0-5)
  • 18. Constructs & Measures
    • Child Aggression
    • Teachers completed the Teacher Report Form (TRF) of the Child Behavior Checklist (Achenbach, 1991) . TRF scales used in this study included:
    • Aggression
    • Externalizing Problems
  • 19. Constructs & Measures
    • Child Aggression
    • Children were observed for 30 minutes on the school playground during recess. Observers coded the occurrence of Aggression by the target child.
    • Inter-observer agreement was excellent (kappa = .94).
  • 20. Results
    • Parental regard was an important predictor of childhood aggression
      • Parental negative regard for a child is positively correlated with childhood aggression as reported by teachers.
      • Positive regard for the child is negatively correlated with observed child aggression
    Step Variable Model R 2 B t p 1 Child Adjustment 0.052 -0.22 -1.85 0.068 2 Child Adjustment 0.403 -0.08 -0.82 0.413 Parental psychological distress 0.34 3.10 0.003 Parental tolerance 0.38 3.37 0.001 Step Variable Model R 2 B t p 1 Child Adjustment 0.052 -0.22 -1.85 0.068 2 Child Adjustment 0.403 -0.08 -0.82 0.413 Parental psychological distress 0.34 3.10 0.003 Parental tolerance 0.38 3.37 0.001 Step Variable Model R 2 B t p 1 Child Adjustment 0.052 -0.22 -1.85 0.068 2 Child Adjustment 0.403 -0.08 -0.82 0.413 Parental psychological distress 0.34 3.10 0.003 Parental tolerance 0.38 3.37 0.001
  • 21. Results
    • Likewise Poor Self-Regulation Predicted Aggression
    • One measure of self regulation (time spent cheating) was positively correlated with a measure of aggression (teacher’s report of externalizing)
    • Percent of time spent cheating also was positively related to child aggressive behavior as reported by teachers.
  • 22. Results
    • However, the relations between parenting style and self-regulation do not support the mediational model
    • The conflict tactics scale presented a inverse relationship with observed aggression: a higher rating on the conflict tactics scale indicated less observed aggression.
    • Parental sensitivity presented an inverse relationship with percent of time spent on task.
    • The other measures of parenting style and self-regulation were not significantly correlated.
  • 23. RESULTS Correlations Between Measures * p < .05; ** p < .01
  • 24. Discussion A relation between parenting patterns and child aggression appears. A relation between self-regulation and child aggression appears as well. Parenting may interact with the relationship between self-regulation and aggression opening up an opportunity for future research. Step Variable Model R 2 B t p 1 Child Adjustment 0.052 -0.22 -1.85 0.068 2 Child Adjustment 0.403 -0.08 -0.82 0.413 Parental psychological distress 0.34 3.10 0.003 Parental tolerance 0.38 3.37 0.001 Step Variable Model R 2 B t p 1 Child Adjustment 0.052 -0.22 -1.85 0.068 2 Child Adjustment 0.403 -0.08 -0.82 0.413 Parental psychological distress 0.34 3.10 0.003 Parental tolerance 0.38 3.37 0.001 Step Variable Model R 2 B t p 1 Child Adjustment 0.052 -0.22 -1.85 0.068 2 Child Adjustment 0.403 -0.08 -0.82 0.413 Parental psychological distress 0.34 3.10 0.003 Parental tolerance 0.38 3.37 0.001
  • 25. Discussion
    • This sample was taken from Child Protective Services which limits the ability of this study to generalize to the public.
    • Only one measure was used to construct an understanding of a child’s overall self-regulation.
  • 26. Questions Are there any questions?? Step Variable Model R 2 B t p 1 Child Adjustment 0.052 -0.22 -1.85 0.068 2 Child Adjustment 0.403 -0.08 -0.82 0.413 Parental psychological distress 0.34 3.10 0.003 Parental tolerance 0.38 3.37 0.001 Step Variable Model R 2 B t p 1 Child Adjustment 0.052 -0.22 -1.85 0.068 2 Child Adjustment 0.403 -0.08 -0.82 0.413 Parental psychological distress 0.34 3.10 0.003 Parental tolerance 0.38 3.37 0.001 Step Variable Model R 2 B t p 1 Child Adjustment 0.052 -0.22 -1.85 0.068 2 Child Adjustment 0.403 -0.08 -0.82 0.413 Parental psychological distress 0.34 3.10 0.003 Parental tolerance 0.38 3.37 0.001