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Byline: Shameem Fatima and M. Hamid Sheikh


The present study primarily focused on the nature of perceived parent-child relationship quality as determinant of aggression in adolescents. The test sample included 512 boy and girl students of secondary and higher secondary level falling within the age range of 14-18 years. The nature of perceived parent-child relationship was examined as constituting two categories i) loving, object reward, protecting, symbolic reward; and ii) demanding, indifferent, neglecting, object punishment, rejecting, and symbolic punishment. Pearson correlation revealed a negative correlation between perceived quality of parent-child relationship and level of aggression in adolescents. Multiple regression analysis showed symbolic punishment aspect of parent-child interaction to be the strongest predictor of aggression.


Undoubtedly aggression is a major and quite common problem in adolescent population. Increased level of aggression and violence in adolescence during second decade of life has been reported frequently (e.g. Hay and Loeber, 1997). It is a physiological response resulting from frustration. This emotional response in the form of anger once aroused leads to overt acts like damage and destruction. These actions are intended to harm others. Aggression not only threatens society's peace but also affects the aggressive persons negatively, making them more vulnerable to other social problems including drug abuse, violent crimes, suicidal attempts and abusive parenting.

Although there can be so many factors predisposing adolescents towards aggression but the focus of the present study is perceived quality of parent-child relationship as a predictor. Out of different dimensions of parent-child relationship quality are parental warmth, love, affection, support and parental reward as well as parental rejection, neglecting, punishment and indifferent behavior towards the child. As parents are the first and foremost socializing agent in the person's life so good quality of relationship with parents leads towards the healthy psychological development. Positive supportive, loving and responsive relations with parents make the child able to adjust well during adolescence. Although changes occur in parent-child relations from childhood to adolescence, still the adjustment during adolescence depends greatly on the relationship quality with parents. Adolescent wants independence from parents regarding decisions about their life.

Dilemma of raising independent adolescents with sufficient parental monitoring is the major problem of this modern society. Parents can help better adjustment in adolescents by accepting their need for autonomy while encouraging them to take responsibility for their actions as well as by providing guidance, support and love in the face of challenging situations. A Technical Report to Division of Childhood and Adolescence: Public Health Agency of Canada, based on the data from two nationally representative samples of Canadian children and adolescents (The Health Behavior in School-Aged Children: A World Health Organization Cross-National Survey and The National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth Cycle 2) was presented by Doyle, Moretti, Brendgen and Bukowski (2004). They reported that effective parenting practices contribute to positive parent-child relationships which, in turn, contribute to healthy child development.

Harsher parenting practices make children perceive their parents as more rejecting and cold towards them, and children who perceive their parents as more rejecting are more likely to show negative outcomes including smoking, alcohol use, showing aggressive acts, bullying others frequently, committing more property offences and showing more affiliation with deviant friends.

A good deal of evidence is that children whose parents are warm, loving, affectionate, responsive and supportive are less likely to engage in aggressive behaviors and other offences. These children are more likely to have good relations with others. Findings of association between parent-child relationship quality and aggression by Harrist and Ainslie (1998); and Ooi, Ang, Fung, Wong and Cai (2006) supported this proposition. Consistent with this are the findings from a study by Deater-Deckard, Atzaba-Poria, and Pike (2004), who found the evidence of negative association between dyadic mutuality (parent-child interaction) and externalizing problems, specifically when the interaction was positive.

Children's perception of their parents as less warm and more rejecting is related with harsh parenting practices; as well as more externalizing problems and aggressive behaviors have been reported in children who are physically punished and abused. Parents use punishment to inhibit inappropriate behaviors in their children, but pain and frustration caused by punishment results in aggressive behaviors in the child. Quite a few studies found the relationship between physical punishment and aggression in adolescents (Lansford, Dodge, Pettit, Bates, Crozier and Kaplow, 2002; Watson and Fischer, 2002) as well as in children (Sim and Ong, 2005). A parallel set of findings by Romano, Tremblay, Boulerice, and Swisher, (2005) pointed out maternal hostility toward the target child and punitive parenting as significant correlates of physical aggression and prosocial behaviors.

McFadyen-Ketchum, Bates, Dodge and Pettit (1996) also found coercive and non affectionate style of mother-child interaction as predictor of initial level of aggression and disruption in kindergarten children. Early harsh parental discipline as predictor of later aggression, and maternal criticism as predictor of externalizing problems have also been documented by Weiss, Dodge, Bates, and Pettit (1992); and Frye and Garber (2005) respectively. Effect of physical abuse on aggressive and externalizing behavior problems has also been reported frequently in adolescents (e.g. Dodge, Bates and Pettit, 1990; Kaplan, Labruna, Pelcovitz, Salzinger, Mandel and Weiner, 1999; Connor, Doerfler, Volungis, Steingard and Mellonijr, 2003).

"Responsiveness" and "demandingness" two dimensions of parent-child relationship have also been found in the literature to be related to child's socio-psychological adjustment during this critical developmental period. Jackson and Foshee (1998) found that, the adolescents, who perceived their parents as highly responsive and highly demanding were less likely to show aggressive behaviors towards peers. Likelihood to report violent behaviors was two to three times high in adolescents perceiving their fathers and mothers as less responsive and less demanding.

Forgoing literature provides sufficient evidence to suggest a relation between parent-child relationship and aggression. But many of these researches have been carried out on children, only few involved adolescents in sample. Generalizing effects from children to adolescents is not a scientific way to describe adolescent adjustment yet not too different either in local perspective. On this assumption this study has been planned to explore the association of parent-child relationship quality with aggression in adolescents. Almost all of the studies used one or two categories of parent-child relationship quality. The present study is extended in the way to incorporate a number of dimensions of relationship quality.

More specific goals of the present study are as follows:

1. To determine the association of perceived parent-child relationship quality with aggression in adolescents.

2. To investigate which of the ten predictor variables in parent-child relationship scale best predicts aggression in adolescents.



Random sampling technique was used to collect data from randomly selected schools in Lahore cosmopolitan area based on the list of schools obtained from the Director of Public Instructions (DPI school) Lahore. Sample consisted of 512 secondary and higher secondary students including 255 boys and 257 girls. Only those students were included in the study, who have both parents alive, and currently living with them. Students having single parents were excluded. Those whose parents were abroad were also excluded. The age range of students was between 14-18 years.


Following scales have been used for the assessment of research variables in the study:

* Translated and Standardized version of Parent Child Relationship Scale (PCRS)

* Translated and Standardized version of Aggression Scale (AS)

Parent-child Relationship Scale

The PCRS is a 100 item scale designed to evaluate the quality of parent-child relationships as the child perceives it. It provides a composite parent-child relationship score as well as 10 subscale scores of both positive and negative dimensions of relationship including 'loving', 'object reward', 'protecting', 'symbolic reward' and 'demanding', 'indifferent', 'neglecting', 'object punishment', 'rejecting', and 'symbolic punishment' respectively. Child responds to each item on 5 point scale ranging from "always" to "very rarely", weighted 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 on the scale points for both parents, mother and father, separately. Each subscale yields a score worked out by summing up the scores of the ratings on each item of the subscale. Composite score on PCRS is calculated by reverse scoring of negative subscales items and then adding up the scores of each 100 items of the scale for mother and father separately.

These two separate scores for mother and father are added up to yield a single score of parent -child relationship quality with high score showing good quality relations. The scale had been translated into Urdu in lexilion equivalence style as part of another study and then used in the present study.

Aggression Scale

Aggression Scale developed by Mathur and Bhatnagar, has been fruitfully used to study level of aggression in age group above 14 years of age. The scale has adequate concurrent validity (.80 in males and .78 in females) compared with "statements in questionnaire of aggression" and test re test reliability (.88 in males and .81 in females). It, in its original form, consists of 55 statements including 30 positive and 25 negative statements. It is a Likert type 5 point scale. In positive form of statements, scores are given as 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1, from 'strongly agree' to 'strongly disagree' respectively and in negative form of statements scoring is reversed as 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 from 'strongly agree' to 'strongly disagree'. The total number of scores constitutes the final score, higher score showing higher level of aggression and lower score showing lower level of aggression. The Urdu translation of this scale done in lexilion equivalence style was used in the present study.


With necessary permission from the heads of the schools included in the sample, the participants were properly seated and clearly briefed about the purpose and approximate time duration. The instructions were read out and the scales were administered. Pearson correlation and multiple regression analysis were carried out to find correlation and the best predictor, by using statistical package for social sciences (SPSS) program.


Table 1

Pearson Product Moment Correlation for Parent Child Relationship and Aggression

Pearson correlation N p value

-.235 512 .01

The results show a significant negative correlation i.e. -.235 between above two variables, which means adolescents perceiving good relationships with their parents show less aggression and those who perceive poor quality relations with parents express high aggression.

Best Predictor variable of Aggression among ten subscales of parent child relationship

The coefficients of multiple regression analysis were calculated to find out best predictor variable among ten subscales namely protection, symbolic punishment, rejection, object punishment, demanding, indifferent, symbolic reward, loving, object reward and neglecting in parent-child relationship.

Table 2

Standardized regression coefficients of ten subscales of parent-child relationship as predictor variables of aggression



Symbolic punishment###.208###3.922###.000


Object punishment###.038###.721###.471



Symbolic reward###-.005###.079###.937


Object reward###-.194###-3.475###.001


Table 2 reveals that symbolic punishment is the best predictor of aggression among ten variables. Positive correlation shows that increasing symbolic punishment increases aggression in adolescents and vice versa. Other significant predictors are object reward, protection, rejection and loving in order of their decreasing significance.

Noticing the different best predictors in mother's and father's relations with their adolescents, it was deemed desirable to explore it further.

Best predictor in mother child relationship

Multiple linear regression coefficients to predict adolescent aggression were computed on scores of each subscale for mother only. Regression coefficients are given below in table.

Table 2

Standardized regression coefficients across ten subscales of mother-child relationship on aggression



Symbolic punishment###.215###4.234###.000


Object punishment###.035###.691###.490



Symbolic reward###-.016###.295###.768


Object reward###-.174###-3.289###.001


Results reveal that symbolic punishment is the best predictor of aggression showing positive relation with aggression. After symbolic punishment, object reward is another good predictor negatively related to aggression. Other significant predictors are rejection, protection and loving in order of their increasing significance. Remaining subscales did not contributed significantly in the prediction of aggression.

Best predictor in father-child relationship

To predict adolescent aggression from ten subscale variables for father only, again multiple regression coefficients were calculated.

Table 3

Standardized regression coefficients across ten subscales of father-child relationship on aggression



Symbolic punishment .161###3.073###.002


Object punishment###.050###.962###.337



Symbolic reward###-.006###.096###.923


Object reward###-.188###-3.335###.001


Table 3 shows that with reference to the relationship of father with their adolescent children, object reward negatively predicts aggression best in adolescents. Symbolic punishment is the second best positive predictor. Protection also significantly predicts aggression. Rejection and neglecting are significant only at a 0.1 level of significance.


The present research focused mainly on investigating the role of perceived parent-child relationship quality in determining aggression in adolescents. Best predictor of aggression among different indicators of parent-child relationship has also been studied. The findings of the present study indicate that perceived quality of parent-child relationship is significantly related to aggression in adolescents. Inferring from these findings it can be concluded that adolescents perceiving good relationship with parents show less aggression and those having poor relations show high aggression. These findings are in agreement with a wide body of studies conducted in this field (e.g. Harrist and Ainslie, 1998). Punishment as negative dimension of parent-child relationship quality is reported to be a strong predictor of aggression by Romano, Tremblay, Boulerice and Swisher (2005);and Sim and Ong (2005).

Kaplan, Labruna, Pelcovitz, Salzinger, Mandel, and Weiner, (1999) also found more externalizing behavior problems on Child Behavior Checklist in abused children as compared to non abused children. Harsh parental discipline was reported as well to be a determinant of aggression by Weiss, Dodge, Bates, and Pettit (1992). These results are also in accordance with Erikson's theory of identity development, which states the "normative identity crisis" of adolescents in the process of searching for identity models. According to this view older people does not provide effective models to the younger generation. Adolescents become aggressive by identifying with older identity models in their immediate home environment. Bandura's social learning theory also supports the present finding that adolescents get training of aggression from their parents by observing it in their home. The findings can also be explained by frustration-aggression model.

Adolescents having poor quality relations in the form of rejection, neglect and punishment get frustrated which stimulates aggression. On the other hand an opposite explanation can also justify this association. Adolescents who are more aggressive are more likely to have negative interactions with parents because parents get frustrated with their undesirable behavior and use punishment to inhibit these behaviors.

The quality of parent's interaction is found to be related with adolescent's healthy development. The present study was carried out to extend the understanding of this association by determination of aggression from different dimensions of relationship quality. Multiple regression analysis found that symbolic punishment is at the top of the list among subscales of parent-child relationship in order of ranking in predicting aggression. One explanation can be that teen-agers are more sensitive having high level of self esteem and do not bear criticism, sarcasm and degradation in front of others. They are most sensitive to anything threatening to their self esteem. Therefore adolescents react aggressively to these types of events. Symbolic punishment being the best predictor is also supported by general system theory formulated by Straus in 1973. According to this theory aggression may result from the way the system is setup.

If the system setup in negative way, family members use unconstructive criticism and negative feedback to solve the problems, resulting in aggression and violence.

Another important finding is the difference of best predictor between mother-child interaction and father-child interaction. Aggression is best determined from symbolic punishment in case of mother-child interaction and from object reward in case of father-child interaction. The reason can be that adolescents spend much time with mothers than fathers with greater possibility for negative interaction with mothers in the process of conflict between adolescent autonomy and parental monitoring. In the process of monitoring, mothers use symbolic punishment e.g. ignorance, expressing negative gestures etc. in order to control their undesirable behavior which threatens adolescents self esteem leading towards aggressive reactions. On the other hand in the culture like Pakistan, father spends much of the time out of house.

Coming home after long hours, he ignores child's misbehaviors and brings different things loved by the child as well as provides other recreational activities, which objectively rewards the child leading towards inhibition of aggressive behaviors.

Limitations and Implications

Firstly, since the study is cross-sectional in nature, the findings cannot be regarded as providing a cause-effect relationship. Secondly, the students were selected from public schools where most students come from low socioeconomic status, while adolescents belonging to high status prefer private schools that were not included in the sample. Future research should include adolescents from private schools as well.

In spite of the limitations the study has a great significance in that it has used multiple indicators instead of a single behavior as indicator of parent-child interaction. Above all it is the first and most important finding in understanding of behavior problems of adolescence stage in the initial stage of research in Pakistan. To conclude it is essential to improve the relationship of parents with their adolescent children, to control aggressive behavior. This is a serious issue which is ignored by common man as well as by policy makers. Aggression prevention planners should try to increase understanding of role of parent-child relationship and strive to include parents as well in intervention programs.


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Department of Psychology and Applied Psychology University of the Punjab
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Publication:Pakistan Journal of Psychology
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 31, 2009

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