Despite its importance, the issue of adolescent violence toward parents has received minimal attention from researchers in comparison to studies of domestic violence between spouses or from parents toward children. In South Korea, 22.9% of adolescents use verbal aggression to their parents, and 9.7% committed physical violence (Kim et al., 2008), which suggests a high incidence rate. Also, several studies report that the main causes of parent assault are family strains or negative family environment such as abuse and witnessing marital violence (Pagani et al., 2003; Brezina, 1999). It is reported that problem-solving is a personal characteristic that functioned as a protective factor of adolescent violent behavior (Kazdin et al., 1989). Therefore, this study examines South Korean adolescent violence toward parents as well as their exposure to family violence, which consists of witnessing marital violence and experiencing child abuse, and the relationship between the two. Specifically, we tested problem-solving as a mediator between exposure to family violence and violence toward parents.
This study has collected data by conducting a survey on adolescents of mixed gender ranging from 9th to 11th grade students in Seoul and Gyeong-gi Province, the largest metropolitan area in South Korea. The survey was self-administered by students and data was collected from January to November of 2007, with the collection of 1138 cases amongst the total of 1167 respondents excluding 29 cases, which were improperly completed. About 50.9% of the subjects were male adolescents, and females made up 48.3%. 28.8% were middle school students, and the rest (71.2%) were high school students. To measure the witnessing marital violence, we used 10 items from the Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS), developed by Straus (1979). Child abuse was measured by 8 items from the CTS, and violence toward parents by 7 items. To estimate the problem-solving, 9 items were used from Problem Solving Inventory (PSI), developed by Heppner (1982). This scale is divided into sub-dimensions: problem-solving confidence, approach-avoidance style, and personal control. Data analyses included descriptive statistics and multiple regression analysis.
As hypothesized, the witnessing of marital violence and child abuse were proven to be significantly influential to verbal aggression toward parents as well as physical violence. The relationship between child abuse and verbal aggression toward parents was moderated by problem-solving confidence and approach-avoidance style, but the relationship between witnessing marital violence and verbal aggression toward parents was not moderated by problem-solving. After examining the effects of witnessing marital violence and child abuse on physical violence toward parents, it is evident that problem-solving confidence and approach-avoidance style have a moderating effect with statistical significance.
The findings suggest the importance of an active intervention to keep adolescents who were exposed to family violence from committing other violence in their family. Furthermore, these findings indicate that social workers need to intervene in improving problem-solving skills of adolescents who were exposed to family violence, and to help them find coping-strategies other than violence toward their parents.