Harsh discipline makes aggressive children worse

Given there’s been a bit about the problems caused by aggressive young people in the local blogs recently I thought this might be something of interest:

Parents should avoid harsh, combative ways of disciplining their aggressive children. That’s according to psychologists whose new research shows that harsh parenting makes children more aggressive in the long run.

The abstract of the paper referred to says:

Results suggest that children’s early aggressive behavior leads to an increase in their mothers’ use of both reasoning and aggressive discipline; in turn, increased use of aggressive discipline leads to an increase in aggression during both childhood and adolescence.

There are (self admitted) weaknesses in the research, but given the government have just stuck £30 million into parenting training, and are clearly interested in making sure the parents of children that Max describes get support around bringing up their children then perhaps this sort of evidence might be helpful.

Also worth a look (or so I thought) is the Risky Behaviour and Setting Boundaries report from Parentline Plus, which tells us some of the concerns that parents have, and the techniques they’re using to influence the behaviour of their adolescent children.


About Andrew Brown

I live in Lewisham, South East London, and spent 9 years as a Labour councillor in the borough between 1997 and 2006.
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3 Responses to Harsh discipline makes aggressive children worse

  1. Max says:

    Nothing perpetuates as well as the parent and child relationship. There’s a lot of damage in society that’s been done centuries ago and is still passed on and generation after generation. It’s very difficult to tell people that their parents were wrong but somebody must do it.

  2. Kate says:

    I was pretty much allowed to do as i pleased as i child. I would take my bike and ride down the lanes to eynsford with a packed lunch and a bottle and with my friends we would going in the ford or go to the castle and have water fights. We never got into trouble and our parents had trust in us and others that everything would be ok.
    I could go to nightclubs at 15 ish and be out till 3 am….although my parents didnt exactly know i was at a club but they didnt worry beacuse i was never in trouble. I think the worst they thought of me was because i smoked.
    As i said i could do as i pleased and never went off the rails ….so Max i think it isnt all down to parents i have always known right from wrong and ive always been respectful to people.
    I think its just different now.

  3. Max says:

    I am still convinced that parenting is very important in shaping just about everybody and I also think that it’s very difficult to understand the kind of parenting we received and what was done right and wrong to us, we just can’t be objective without an awful lot of soul searching.
    You say that you always knew right from wrong for example but don’t credit your parents for passing that on to you, maybe you’re right, there are also things we develop into that are independent from our parents’ actions but there’s a very large chunk that comes straight from there and the kind of relationships we are able to have is one of them and that is true for relationships with our partner and children as well as how we relate to everyone else.
    Going back to the original context of the post I think that children that grow in abusive and violent family environments end up taking that as a normal behaviour and then use the same standards when relating to people outside their families too.

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