The Effects of Partner Aggression on Childhood Functioning: Parenting Quality as a Moderator for the Intergenerational Transmission of Aggression

Date

2013-07-15

Authors

Caldeira, Valerie

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Abstract

Aggression between couples is a pervasive social problem throughout various life stages, including the transition to parenthood. Partner aggression during this life stage is particularly problematic given the possible negative effects it has on children’s development, including the possibility of the intergenerational transmission of aggression. However, not all children who are exposed to parental aggression become perpetrators of aggression. The present study used an initial community sample of 98 pregnant couples that were followed for two years. It was found that over 90% of children were exposed to parental psychological aggression, and approximately a third of children were exposed to parental physical aggression. Exposure to psychological aggression was related to externalizing symptoms for girls, and exposure to physical aggression was related to select internalizing symptoms for boys and girls. Parenting behaviours moderated the link between exposure to parental psychological aggression and childhood aggressive behaviour. Surprisingly, although consistent with a strict interpretation of the social learning theory, high quality parenting behaviours were related to more childhood aggression within the context of an aggressive household. The findings of this study can be applied to prevention and treatment programs focused on curtailing childhood exposure to partner aggression and the intergenerational transmission of aggression.

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Keywords

partner aggression, childhood exposure to aggression, intergenerational transmission of aggression, parenting quality

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