Parenting and the Expression of Aggression and Antisocial Behaviour

Posted on October 15, 2018

Using a twin study design, researchers analyzed minute differences between parenting behaviours that each twin received to determine whether differences in the social environment increased the likelihood of antisocial behaviours in later development.

Previous literature had suggested that CU traits were the product of biological factors, such as genetics and brain development, implying that CU traits were part of an innate mechanism which would be expressed regardless of social factors. However, the researchers of the present study hypothesized that there should be environmental factors that could mediate the expression of antisocial behaviour.

A twin study design is useful because it isolates and highlights sociocultural factors from genetic traits since identical twins share the same set of genetic information. This means that in this study, any difference found in the behavioural responses between the same pair of twins would be likely due to social environmental factors.

The findings of the present study support the hypothesis that parental warmth was a significant predictor of aggression and expression of CU traits in children – the twin who received stricter or harsher treatment and less warmth from the parents had an increased chance of showing aggression and CU traits.

This finding was replicated in a follow-up study using adopted children, i.e. parent and child were not biologically related. This shows that genetic factors do not have to come into play for social environmental factors to increase the likelihood of aggression and CU traits emerging in the child.

However, it is worth noting that a parent-child relationship is a two-way street – a parent responds to their child’s behaviours the same way a child would react to a parent’s behaviours. It could be that there may be something in the child’s internal disposition or genetic characteristics that elicit certain reactions in the parent. This could mean that while parents may have started off displaying the same level of warmth to both twins, it would be difficult to maintain the same level of warmth towards the both of them if one never reciprocates. Hence, the researchers advised against putting the blame solely on parents for their child’s problem behaviours.

The findings from the present study are useful because they show that small differences in parenting can have a large impact on child behaviour, specifically problem behaviour, which can then inform future interventions to prevent the development of such traits or at least, reduce the severity of antisocial behaviour.

Category(s):Aggression & Violence, Antisocial personality, Parenting

Source material from Medical Xpress

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