PSY307-Parent-child relationship

From PsychWiki - A Collaborative Psychology Wiki

Jump to: navigation, search

Part I-Topic

We have all experienced for a moment in our life a relationship with our parents, whether it has been long or short, or a good or bad experience. I believe that the quality of the relationship along with other variables can attribute to aggression.

There are many factors and variables when determining the reason in which the child is aggressive. Is it Biological or Situational, or is it plausible that’s it a contribution of Genetic, naturally aggressive? It is the parents that are at fault for the behavior of a child? A child’s aggression is usually a by-product of the negativity that is demonstrated in the family dynamic. I believe the quality and how strong the parent-child relationship is that plays a vital role. The way in which a child gets disciplined, developing in the manner of punishment, treatment and closeness to the parent is part of the learning process of the child learning aggression. The suggestion of the original theory according to the book Human aggression “is that aggression is developed by the parents first, secondly the peers, and thirdly the media or live models.” (Baron & Richardson, 1994)

What if you were predisposed to be aggressive? Would it then be the result of the quality of the relationship from the parent? “There is an increasing evidence from behavioral genetic research on child, adolescent, and adult personality for the role of heritable influence in shaping aggressiveness” (Baron & Richardson, 1998)

Research has shown many correlations of heritable influences and aggressive behavior. According to the article: Differential Genetic and Environmental Influence on Reactive and Proactive Aggression in Children, “Given natural individual differences and strong heritability for brain circuitry (Thompson et al. 2001), it could be argued that there would in fact be significant heritability for reactive aggression.” (2001) For a particular type of aggression suggest that it can be heritable. In this study they found that the “Genetic influence for proactive aggression tended to be higher than for reactive aggression…thus a trend toward significantly greater heritability for proactive aggression” (Barker et al, 2008).

Parents are the first source and role models of which a child is first exposed to, and takes after since they are ultimately the foundation of social bonding on a daily basis. The bond that the parents have with the child can determine the kind and type of relationships they will have later in the future. The attachment theory suggest that if a child does not have a stable bond with the parent or caregiver they will not be able to adequately bond securely with other people in other relationships in the future. Unstable bonds such as anxious avoidant and resistant bonds often play a role in the development of their perception of relationships. Anxious avoidant often does not like to be controlled and are non compliant. For resistant bonds the child often has separation anxiety and as a result will be more aggressive and more impulsive.

Even at a very young age parents teach their children right and wrong either indirectly or directly. It is the difference in the perception of what is right and wrong that gets skewed along the way. The actions that the child observes teach them inadvertently what is considered okay in their world.

When a child observes the parent demonstrating aggressively, negative actions, the child is desensitized from the harshness of it. When at home the parents are fighting and/or physically aggravated, the child learns that those actions are normal. When a child or adolescent gets punished physically either by spanking or hitting, the child learns what is appropriate and inappropriate. With this mind set it is more likely for a person to aggress in order to attain what they desire. They learn from experience that this type of behavior is normal and the best way to solve issues that are dealt with differently in other ways. According to the text Human Aggression “parents’ responses to the child’s misbehaviors, the nature of the relationship between parents and children, the extent of family and disharmony, and the nature of interactions of siblings are factors that are likely to influence a child’s aggressive behavior within and outside the family unit”. (1994)

To what extent do parents have an influence on the child’s behavior? If they raise a child with negative and physical punishment, they are more likely to aggress. “Whether intentional or unintentional, the reinforcement contingencies in the child-reading environment are important predictors of the development of aggression”. (1994) If the child turns out to be aggressive at school, children might react differently to the demonstration of aggression as a behavior. If the child starts to display aggressive behavior and gets into trouble at school they become more aggressive than children who are not. With such aggressive behavior none of the children want to interact with the troubled child due to fear or intimidation. The grades of the troubled child begin and continue to slip and suffer greatly; he is more likely to be sad and frustrated because of the situation that he is in.

What are his parents’ reactions? It depends on the parents, but in this case the negativity the person exhibits feeds into the cycle. The cycle that continues to feed the aggressive behavior because he does not know any other solution to stop the behavior. With prevention of aggression in Parent-child relationships one should look at parenting styles and monitoring instead of blaming the children. If the parents used greater efforts to support, communicate with the child the positive relationship would impact the change of the behavior. “These models have suggested that parenting practice not only influence child behavior but that child behavior also elicits parental response”. (Boutelle, Eisenberg, Gregory, Sztainer, 2008)

When you go through any therapy session, first the person has to realize that they have a problem. With realization of the problem, they can get support and information that helps alleviate the behavior. With the education provided, they can and will discover the amount of influence they have on a child and use it to benefit the relationship. “Many parents reported that as a result of participating in the group an increased awareness of their parenting style. (Boutelle et. al 2008)

With the awareness comes change. From the Journal: Exploring Parent participation in a Parent Training Program for Children’s aggression: Understanding and Illuminating Mechanisms of Change they implemented many different strategies to help them find the problem, deal with it correctly and implement it. During the time of change for these parents when they acquired new techniques of problem solving and relationship advice they saw the potential of the program. “Generally, parents described an increasingly positive relationship with their children. Parents commented that their children perceived a shift in the parents’ behavior, which resulted in dramatic improvement in parent-child relationship overall”. (Boutelle et al 2008)

Part II-Example

I work at a private school and everyday I deal with children that are aggressive and non aggressive on a daily basis. There are two children in particular that I have observed in the past years. To protect the privacy of the individuals, fictitious names will be issued to them. These two individuals are in second grade, and attend the same school. The first child will be called under the alias of “Leeza”, and the second I will name “Dee”. Both individuals come from different backgrounds of which I do not consider to be relevant in this case.

Leeza is an only-child with both parents together in a healthy marriage. Both the mother and father are in the education field, her father works at the same school she attends. She often displays aggressive behavior such as yelling, arguing, and having temper tantrums. She gets along with her friends fairly well, but is not capable of controlling her anger in situations when a problem needs to be solved.

Dee is the eldest between two brothers in her family with both parents together in a healthy marriage. I am unaware of the occupation of her father, but I am aware of the mother’s occupation. She is a Physical Education teacher at the same school that her daughter attends as well. She has yet to display any severe form of aggressive behavior. If she is mad she displays self-control and acts mature for her age by solving the problem by communication not physical aggression.

Part III -Application

Each parent is different when it comes to discipline or punishment. When Leeza gets into trouble she gets punished right away to prevent it from escalating and continuing. At school she gets a time-out and is no longer able to play with her friends. At home, when she gets into trouble she gets spanked by her father and has privileges taken away. The father punishes her this way because he was brought up in the same manner. The father is usually the one that deals with the discipline in the family.

Dee’s parents punish her and her siblings differently from Leeza. In Dee’s family the parents are equally involved in disciplining their children. The mother talks to them about the situation and punishes them accordingly with privileges taken away. The longevity depends on the severity of the situation. The mother was brought up in this style but the father grew up in a violent, hostile environment. The father witnessed spousal abuse and had severe form of punishment to both himself and his siblings. As punishment for the father as a child he got whipped with the belt, spanked and got yelled at. He grew up with this type of discipline, and as a result he became more aggressive. He learned as a child that it was normal and appropriate to hit because he was socialized to do this but also internalized it. He did not realize the anger issue he had as a child until he had his own children and dealt with it through anger management. “Punishment appears to have relatively long-term effects. Later studies of these same children found that severity of punishment at age 8 was related to aggressive behavior at age 18 to 30”. (1994) Even though the parenting style was different the monitoring was the same in both families. Both children were monitored adequately and punished moderately high to reduce further behavior from occurring.

Part IV-Application #2

Columbine’s anniversary has shed some light on the effect of children and the pressures of life. In terms of the Anniversary of the Shooting of Columbine, I believe that those teenagers could have been saved only if the monitoring of the parents and the relationships were closer among the family members. There were many assumptions that this case was a typical regimen of bullying and revenge. The police assumed wrong, both teens were not bullied severely. Later investigation discovered journals that exposed their plan of destruction.

Both killers were from dysfunctional families. According to this website Eric Harris, one of the shooters, came from a family in which the father was in the military. Most men that are in the military are unemotional, strict, and disciplined. Eric was on antidepressants and needed to be in Anger Management. Due to the relationship of Eric and his father, there were no stable bonds and a lack of parent child relations. This was an attribution to his aggression and violent behavior. His ideas of masculinity were portrayed through a man of dominance and strength. Therefore he took up that role of being that leader in the shootings.

According to this website his partner in crime Dylan Klebold showed signs of depression and unhappiness. (Depression is caused by low levels of seretonin, which lead to low inhibitions and high impulsivity that result in aggression) His parents had an okay relationship as far as they knew with their son. According to Usa Today "They said they had no clues about Dylan's Mental state and regretted not seeing that he was suicidal." Even though they had an okay relationship they failed to notice signs that were red flags. Dylan was more of a follower between the two of them but together they complimented each other. One dominated the other followed.

There are many variables that the parents of both shooters could have done different within their parenting style. One parent saw the signs of depression but chose to avoid it. The other parent had an unhealthy relationship with his son. He played the part of the traditional father but did not make much effort to make it a bonding relationship. The different experiences led to a domino effect that ultimately led to the shootings in Columbine.


Baron, Robert A. & Richardson, Deborah R., 1994, Human Aggression (2nd Edition)A Division of Plenum Publishing Corporation.

Barker, Lauren A. & Raine, Adrian & Lui, Juianghong & Jacobson, Kristen C. (2008) Differential Genetic and Enviromental Influence on reactive and proactive Aggression in Children. J Abnormal Child Psychology, 36: 1265-1278

Levac, Anne Marie & McCay, Elizabeth & Merka, Patricia & D’ Arcy, Lynn, (2008)Exploring Parent Participation in a Parent Training Program for Children’s Aggression:Understanding and Illuminating Mechanisms of Change, Journal of Child and Adolescence Psychiatric Nursing, 21, (2), 78-88

Boutelle, Kerri & Eisenberg, Marla & Gregory, Melissa & Sztainer, Dianne, (2009) The reciprocal relationship between parent-child relationship connectedness and adolescent emotional functioning over 5 years,

Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 66, 309-316Shephard, C. (1999), A Columbine Site, Retrieved June 11, 2009 from

Toppo, Greg ,2009-04-13, 10 Years later, the real story behind Columbine USA Today,

◄ Back to How to explain aggressive behavior? page

Personal tools