Harsh discipline makes aggressive children worse

May 29, 2008

This  week BPS Research Digest takes a look at aggressive behaviour in children, reviewing Sheehan, M.J., Watson, M.W. (2008) paper,  and how parents  should avoid exacerbating such behaviour with harsh combative discipline.

Michael Sheehan and Malcolm Watson followed 440 children and their mothers for five years. On four occasions during that time, the mothers answered questions about their own style of parenting and their children’s behaviour. At the start of the study, the children’s average age was 10 years and by the final assessment their average age was 15.
The results revealed two-way influences between children’s behaviour and their mothers’ parenting style. On the one hand, children’s aggressive behaviour at younger ages predicted more disciplining by mothers, including more use of combative discipline (both verbal and physical) and more use of reasoning techniques. On the other hand, a greater use of harsh, aggressive discipline by mothers predicted increased future aggressive behaviour by their children. 

Link to read this BPS report

Source: BPS Research Digest, Sheehan, M.J., Watson, M.W. (2008). Reciprocal influences between maternal discipline techniques and aggression in children and adolescents. Aggressive Behavior, 34(3), 245-255. DOI: 10.1002/ab.20241


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