Parents’ Aggression Toward Children and Children’s Own Aggression

  • Jennifer E. LansfordEmail author
Part of the Science Across Cultures: The History of Non-Western Science book series (SACH, volume 7)


The topic of parenting and aggression can be approached from two main perspectives. The first involves understanding parents’ aggression toward children. The second involves understanding how parenting is related to children’s own aggression. Parents’ aggression toward children can take physical (corporal punishment, physical abuse) or nonphysical forms (derogatory verbal comments, psychological control). Aggression toward children is associated with negative child outcomes and is a violation of children’s right to protection. Children’s own aggression is predicted by harsh, coercive forms of parenting and by a lack of warmth, acceptance, and positive responsiveness. Cultural contexts shape parents’ and children’s aggression, in large part by providing a context in which aggression is condoned or condemned.


Parenting Behavior Physical Abuse Physical Aggression Relational Aggression Psychological Control 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Ainsworth, M. D. S. (1982). Attachment: Retrospect and prospect. In C. M. Parkes & J. Stevenson-Hinde (Eds.), The place of attachment in human behavior (pp. 3–30). New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  2. Archer, J. (2004). Sex differences in aggression in real-world settings: A meta-analytic review. Review of General Psychology, 8, 291–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arnett, J. J. (2008). The neglected 95%: Why American psychology needs to become less American. American Psychologist, 63, 602–614.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  5. Bandura, A. (1983). Psychological mechanisms of aggression. In R. Geen & E. Donnerstein (Eds.), Aggression: Theoretical and empirical reviews (Theoretical and methodological issues, Vol. 1, pp. 1–40). New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  6. Barber, B. K. (1996). Parental psychological control: Revisiting a neglected construct. Child Development, 67, 3296–3319.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Barber, B. K., Stolz, H. E., & Olsen, J. A. (2005). Parental support, psychological control, and behavioral control: Assessing relevance across time, method, and culture. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 70(4).Google Scholar
  8. Beauchaine, T. P., Webster-Stratton, C., & Reid, M. J. (2005). Mediators, moderators, and predictors of 1-year outcomes among children treated for early-onset conduct problems: A latent growth curve analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73, 371–388.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Berlin, L. J., Ispa, J. M., Fine, M. A., Malone, P. S., Brooks-Gunn, J., Brady-Smith, C., Ayoub, C., & Bai, Y. (2009). Correlates and consequences of spanking and verbal punishment for low-income White, African American, and Mexican American toddlers. Child Development, 80, 1403–1420.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Bornstein, M. H. (1995). Form and function: Implications for studies of culture and human development. Culture and Psychology, 1, 123–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bowlby, J. (1973). Attachment and loss: Vol. 2 . Separation, anxiety and anger. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  12. Card, N. A., Stucky, B. D., Sawalani, G. M., & Little, T. D. (2008). Direct and indirect aggression during childhood and adolescence: A meta-analytic review of gender differences, intercorrelations, and relations to maladjustment. Child Development, 79, 1185–1229.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Coleman, D. L. (1998). The Seattle compromise: Multicultural sensitivity and Americanization. Duke Law Journal, 47, 717–783.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Crick, N. R., & Dodge, K. A. (1994). A review and reformulation of social information-processing mechanisms in children’s social adjustment. Psychological Bulletin, 115, 74–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Crick, N. R., & Dodge, K. A. (1996). Social information-processing mechanisms in reactive and proactive aggression. Child Development, 67, 993–1002.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Crick, N. R., & Grotpeter, J. K. (1995). Relational aggression, gender, and social-psychological adjustment. Child Development, 66, 710–722.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Davis-Kean, P. E. (2005). The influence of parent education and family income on child achievement: The indirect role of parental expectations and the home environment. Journal of Family Psychology, 19, 294–304.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. De Wolff, M., & van IJzendoorn, M. H. (1997). Sensitivity and attachment: A meta-analysis on parental antecedents of infant attachment. Child Development, 68, 571–591.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Dodge, K. A., & Coie, J. D. (1987). Social information processing factors in reactive and proactive aggression in children’s peer groups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 1146–1158.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Dodge, K. A., Bates, J. E., & Pettit, G. S. (1990). Mechanisms in the cycle of violence. Science, 250, 1678–1683.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Dodge, K. A., Pettit, G. S., Bates, J. E., & Valente, E. (1995). Social information-processing patterns partially mediate the effect of early physical abuse on later conduct problems. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 104, 632–643.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Dodge, K. A., Lochman, J. E., Harnish, J. D., Bates, J. E., & Pettit, G. S. (1997). Reactive and proactive aggression in school children and psychiatrically impaired chronically assaultive youth. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 106, 37–51.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Durrant, J. E. (1999). Evaluating the success of Sweden’s corporal punishment ban. Child Abuse and Neglect, 23, 435–448.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Edfeldt, Å. W. (1985). Aga – fostran till våld. Malmö: Proprius.Google Scholar
  25. Ember, C. R., & Ember, M. (2005). Explaining corporal punishment of children: A cross-cultural study. American Anthropologist, 107, 609–619.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fischer, M. (1998). The human rights implications of a cultural defense. Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal, 6, 663–702.Google Scholar
  27. Gershoff, E. T. (2002). Corporal punishment by parents and associated child behaviors and experiences: A meta-analytic and theoretical review. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 539–579.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Gershoff, E. T., Miller, P. C., & Holden, G. W. (1999). Parenting influences from the pulpit: Religious affiliation as a determinant of parental corporal punishment. Journal of Family Psychology, 13, 307–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hansen, K. K. (1997). Folk remedies and child abuse: A review with emphasis on caida de mollera and its relationship to shaken baby syndrome. Child Abuse and Neglect, 22, 117–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hart, C. H., Nelson, D. A., Robinson, C. C., Olsen, S. F., & McNeilly-Choque, M. K. (1998). Overt and relational aggression in Russian nursery-school-age children: Parenting style and marital linkages. Developmental Psychology, 34, 687–697.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33, 1–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jones, P., & Welch, S. (2010). Rethinking children’s rights: Attitudes in contemporary society. London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  33. Kuppens, S., Grietens, H., Onghena, P., & Michiels, D. (2009). Relations between parental psychological control and childhood relational aggression: Reciprocal in nature? Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 38, 117–131.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Lansford, J. E., & Bornstein, M. H. (2007). Review of parenting programs in developing countries. New York: UNICEF.Google Scholar
  35. Lansford, J. E., & Deater-Deckard, K. (2012). Childrearing discipline and violence in developing countries. Child Development, 83, 62–75.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Lansford, J. E., & Dodge, K. A. (2008). Cultural norms for adult corporal punishment of children and societal rates of endorsement and use of violence. Parenting, 8, 257–270.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Lansford, J. E., Chang, L., Dodge, K. A., Malone, P. S., Oburu, P., Palmérus, K., et al. (2005). Cultural normativeness as a moderator of the link between physical discipline and children’s adjustment: A comparison of China, India, Italy, Kenya, Philippines, and Thailand. Child Development, 76, 1234–1246.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Lansford, J. E., Miller-Johnson, S., Berlin, L. J., Dodge, K. A., Bates, J. E., & Pettit, G. S. (2007). Early physical abuse and later violent delinquency: A prospective longitudinal study. Child Maltreatment, 12, 233–245.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Lansford, J. E., Malone, P. S., Dodge, K. A., Chang, L., Chaudhary, N., Tapanya, S., Oburu, P., & Deater-Deckard, K. (2010). Children’s perceptions of maternal hostility as a mediator of the link between discipline and children’s adjustment in four countries. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 34, 452–461.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Lansford, J. E., Criss, M. M., Laird, R. D., Shaw, D. S., Pettit, G. S., Bates, J. E., & Dodge, K. A. (2011). Reciprocal relations between parents’ physical discipline and children’s externalizing behavior during middle childhood and adolescence. Development and Psychopathology, 23, 225–238.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Lansford, J. E., Skinner, A. T., Sorbring, E., di Giunta, L., Deater-Deckard, K., Dodge, K. A., Malone, P. S., Oburu, P., Pastorelli, C., Tapanya, S., Uribe Tirado, L. M., Zelli, A., Al-Hassan, S. M., Alampay, L. P., Bacchini, D., Bombi, A. S., Bornstein, M. H., & Chang, L. (2012). Boys’ and girls’ relational and physical aggression in nine countries. Aggressive Behavior, 38, 298–308.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Larzelere, R. E. (2000). Child outcomes of nonabusive and customary physical punishment by parents: An updated literature review. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 3, 199–221.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Larzelere, R. E., & Kuhn, B. R. (2005). Comparing child outcomes of physical punishment and alternative disciplinary tactics: A meta-analysis. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 8, 1–37.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Levesque, R. J. R. (2000). Cultural evidence, child maltreatment, and the law. Child Maltreatment, 5, 146–160.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. MacDonald, K. B., & Parke, R. D. (1984). Bridging the gap: Parent-child play interactions and peer interactive competence. Child Development, 55, 1265–1277.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Martinez, C. R., Jr., & Forgatch, M. S. (2001). Preventing problems with boys’ noncompliance: Effects of a parent training intervention for divorcing mothers. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 69, 416–428.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Mills, R. S. L., & Rubin, K. H. (1998). Are behavioral control and psychological control both differentially associated with childhood aggression and social withdrawal? Canadian Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 30, 132–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Norenzayan, A., & Heine, S. J. (2005). Psychological universals: What are they and how can we know? Psychological Bulletin, 131, 763–784.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Parke, R. D., Burks, V., Carson, J., Neville, B., & Boyum, L. (1994). Family-peer relationships: A tripartite model. In R. D. Parke & S. Kellam (Eds.), Family relationships with other social systems (pp. 115–145). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  50. Patterson, G. R. (1982). Coercive family process. Eugene: Castalia.Google Scholar
  51. Pinheiro, P. S. (2006). World report on violence against children. Geneva: United Nations.Google Scholar
  52. Poulin, F., & Boivin, M. (2000). The role of proactive and reactive aggression in the formation and development of boys’ friendships. Developmental Psychology, 36, 233–240.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Risser, A. L., & Mazur, L. J. (1995). Use of folk remedies in a Hispanic population. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 149, 978–981.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Roberts, M. W., & Powers, S. W. (1990). Adjusting chair timeout enforcement procedures for oppositional children. Behavior Therapy, 21, 257–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Rohner, R. P. (1986). The warmth dimension: Foundations of parental acceptance-rejection theory. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  56. Rohner, R. P., Kean, K. J., & Cournoyer, D. E. (1991). Effects of corporal punishment, perceived caretaker warmth, and cultural beliefs on the psychological adjustment of children in St. Kitts, West Indies. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 53, 681–693.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Scarpa, A., & Raine, A. (1997). Psychophysiology of anger and violent behavior. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 20, 375–394.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Shields, A., & Cicchetti, D. (1998). Reactive aggression among maltreated children: The contributions of attention and emotion dysregulation. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 27, 381–395.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Smithmyer, C. M., Hubbard, J. A., & Simons, R. F. (2000). Proactive and reactive aggression in delinquent adolescents: Relations to aggression outcome expectancies. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 29, 86–93.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Stout, H. (2009, October 21). For some parents, shouting is the new spanking. The New York Times. Available
  61. Stouthamer-Loeber, M., Loeber, R., Homish, D. L., & Wei, E. (2001). Maltreatment of boys and the development of disruptive and delinquent behavior. Development and Psychopathology, 13, 941–955.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Straus, M. A. (1994). Beating the devil out of them: Corporal punishment in American families. New York: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  63. United Nations. (1989). United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Geneva. Washington, DC: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Retrieved from
  64. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). (2009). Progress for children: A report card on child protection. New York: UNICEF.Google Scholar
  65. United Nations Development Programme. (2007). Human development reports. Retrieved July 10, 2009, from
  66. Vissing, Y. M., Straus, M. A., Gelles, R. J., & Harrop, J. W. (1991). Verbal aggression by parents and psychosocial problems of children. Child Abuse and Neglect, 15, 223–238.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  67. Vitaro, F., Brendgen, M., & Tremblay, R. E. (2002). Reactively and proactively aggressive children: Antecedent and subsequent characteristics. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 43, 495–505.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. Weisz, J. R., Suwanlert, S., Chaiyasit, W., & Walter, B. R. (1987). Over- and undercontrolled referral problems among children and adolescents from Thailand and the United States: The wat and wai of cultural differences. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55, 719–726.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  69. Weisz, J. R., Weiss, B., Suwanlert, S., & Chaiyasit, W. (2006). Testing the syndromal sensitivity model: Culture and psychopathology in Thai and American adolescents. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74, 1098–1107.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  70. Whipple, E. E., & Richey, C. A. (1997). Crossing the line from physical discipline to child abuse: How much is too much? Child Abuse & Neglect, 21, 431–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Widom, C. S., Schuck, A. M., & White, H. R. (2006). An examination of pathways from childhood victimization to violence: The role of early aggression and problematic alcohol use. Violence and Victims, 21, 675–690.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  72. Ziegert, K. A. (1983). The Swedish prohibition of corporal punishment: A preliminary report. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 45, 917–926.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Social Science Research Institute and Center for Child and Family Policy Duke UniversityDurhamUSA

Personalised recommendations