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Punitive parenting may lead to aggressive kids: StatsCan

Last Updated Mon, 25 Oct 2004 11:35:11 EDT

OTTAWA - Children raised in homes dominated by punitive parenting styles are more likely to bully, get into fist fights and be mean to others, says a six-year study of 2,000 Canadian children.

The National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth, released Monday by Statistics Canada, found aggressive scores were not affected by household income or whether the child was a boy or a girl. It also found the likelihood of a child being raised by punitive parents was identical for both low-income and higher-income households.

The study began following children as two- and three-year-olds in 1994. At the time, toddlers living in punitive households scored 39 per cent higher on a scale of aggressive behaviours.

Researchers gauged aggression by asking parents how often their child got into fights, or how often they bullied or were mean to others.

When researchers revisited the children six years later, they found the kids, now aged eight and nine, scored 83 per cent higher on aggressive behaviours if parenting styles remained as punitive as when they were toddlers.

They also discovered that children whose parents grew less authoritarian with time scored just as low as those who had never lived in a punitive home.

Punitive parenting was measured by asking parents how often they used physical punishment, yelled or shouted at the child, versus how often they calmly discussed the problem or described a better way to react.

Aggressive behaviour in young children is of considerable interest because of its implications for future behaviour and adjustment, according to the study.

The study doesn't say punitive parenting will lead invariably to increased aggression in children. However, it does reinforce earlier research that has shown such parenting styles can result in increased aggression.

Researchers have found links between childhood aggression and poor outcomes later in life. These outcomes include poor school results, delinquency, crime in adolescence and chronic unemployment.

Written by CBC News Online staff


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