Parental practices and attitudes, have tremendous effects on children in young age. So do individual and familial characteristics. This study deals with the effects of family and parenting on aggressive (physical and relational) behavior of young children. Aggressive behavior in early childhood has been associated with several negative outcomes for children, such as short- and long-term academic, developmental, social, and emotional difficulties. This study used a social-ecological framework to consider the direct, indirect, and interactive effects of both individual and family factors on children’s aggressiveness. Individual factors included factors such as impulsivity and peer rejection, while familial factors included parental support and involvement, and psychological control. In addition, a mediation-moderation model was examined.
The study was based on a social media and email survey of 502 Israeli mothers of children aged 3-5 (31.6% Jews and 68.4% Arabs). The study explored the mediating role of parental psychological control in the association between co-parenting and children’s aggressiveness, as well as the moderating role of impulsivity on the relationship between parental psychological control and aggressive behaviors.
The results showed that children’s physical and relational aggression is positively associated with parental use of psychological control and negatively with co-parenting and prosocial behavior. Psychological control mediated the association between co-parenting and children’s involvement in physical and indirect violence. However, while impulsivity moderated the effect of psychological control on physical aggression, no interaction effects between these factors were found in predicting indirect aggression.
Conclusions and Implications:
Prevention and intervention programs that deal with early childhood aggression should be comprehensive and directed to children and their families. They should also consider focusing on teaching preschool children anger management and prosocial behavior skills. Our study emphasizes the need to observe children’s development within the context of their families and consider the mutual influences of differ subsystems such as co-parenting and psychological control. The study highlights parental and couple practices as much as on individual characteristics and mechanisms to prevent and restrain early childhood violence and shows how crucial is for prevention and intervention programs be used to raise mothers' awareness about the harmful effects of psychological control.