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DYSFUNCTIONAL PARENTING AS A DETERMINANT OF RELATIONAL AGGRESSION.

Byline: Anila Mukhtar and Anjum Ara Jahangir

Abstract

Present research aimed to study the dysfunctional parenting as a determinant of relational aggression (RA) among adolescents. The "dysfunctional parenting" specifically associated with two key factors i.e., care and overprotection of both mother and father was focused. It was hypothesized that "Mother care, mother overprotectiveness and father care and overprotectiveness would have a predictive relationship with relational aggression among adolescents. A stratified random sample of 304 male and female adolescents between ages of 17 to 21 years with mean age of 19.11 (+-SD=0.88) was selected from the University of Karachi. The Diverse Adolescent Relational Aggression Scale (Karla, 2010), and Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI), (Parker, Tupling, and Brown, 1979) were administered.

The results of linear regression analysis revealed that mother care, mother overprotection and father care are significant predictors of relational aggression whereas father overprotection was not found to be significant predictor of relational aggression in adolescents. Implication and suggestions for the future research work have been given.

Keywords: Dysfunctional Parenting, Low level of Parental Bonding, Relational Aggression (RA), Adolescents

INTRODUCTION

Parenting is undeniably one of life's greatest sources of joy and challenges because of many reasons. The parent child relationship is the primary relationship in a child's life that demands emotional involvement, physical involvement, cultural congruency, religious harmony, personal satisfaction and motivation, particular values system, goal directedness and much more. According to Hoghughi (1998), parenting is one of the most important issues of public health in our society. In Muslim's societies like Pakistan parenting is usually considered a holy task and religious liability. As at one place Allah said in Quran that "Wealth and children are the adornment of the life of this world..." (Surah Al-Kahf (The Cave) #18 Verse 46).

According to the American Psychiatric Association (2015), parenting practices around the world share three major goals: ensuring children's health and safety, preparing children for life as productive adults and transmitting cultural values. These goals show that parenting is complex, highly demanding and directly linked with the physical and mental health of both parents and the child (Kendall-Tackett, 2003). Primarily parenting can be of two types. (1) Good parenting (Steinberg, 2004), (2) poor parenting (Bowlby, 1977).

Good parenting usually refers to warm, responsive and authoritative parenting styles, especially when a secure bond of attachment exists between children and their parents (Ainsworth as cited in Papalia, Olds, and Feldman, 1998). Likewise, social competence, sense of self-worth, learning skills and educational achievements, all are results of good parenting (Hill, Stafford, Seaman, Ross, and Daniel, 2007). On the other hand, the poor parenting is an anomalous parenting resulting in failure to provide care (i.e. being unresponsive, disparaging, rejecting), excessive control, and over-protection (Bowlby, 1977).

Different researchers used different terms for bad/poor parenting e.g., dysfunctional (Bowlby, 1977; Kendziora and O'Leary, 1993), anomalous, (Bowlby, 1977) etc. Similarly, multiple parameters assessed dysfunctional parenting such as indifference, over control and abuse (Parker, 1979); laxness, over reactivity, and verbosity (Robinson, Mandleco, Olsen, and Hart, 1995); and unresponsive, disparaging, rejecting (Bowlby 1977). In present study Bowlby's (1977) concept of parental "Care" and Levy's (1931) concept of "overprotection" were followed as theoretical foundations, and "dysfunctional parenting" was analyzed with the help of Parental Bond Instrument (PBI) developed by Parker, Tupling, and Brown (1979).

In literal meaning parental care is a series of behaviors in which parents spend time and their energies to feed and protect their children and not only work for their fitness but maintains it altruistically (Clutton-Brock, 1991; Smiseth, Kolliker, and Royle, 2012). Whereas psychological care is when parents provide their child a sense of love, acceptance, appreciation, guidance and protection to make them culturally, physically, emotionally, cognitively and socially strong (APA, 2015).

According to Bowlby (1969), the children who received responsive care from their parents, have a strong self-belief that can be shown predominantly in the later stages of their lives. Whereas children who did not receive that much secure attachment and responsive care from their parents might perceive themselves as uncertain and hesitant for certain skills and can lose their sense of self-confidence. They may also become dependent on others, socially isolated and aggressive (Feeney and Nollar, 1990).

Apart from care the other variable which contributes to a dysfunctional parenting is overprotection which is defined as a degree of control, rejection or indifference, intrusiveness and discouragement of autonomy (Ingram, 2009). Many researchers agreed that parental overprotection have negative impact on child's mental health (Holmbeck et al., 2002; Hudson and Rapee, 2005; Power, Dahlquist, Thompson, and Warren, 2003). In addition, others have also found strong association of parental overprotection with oppositional behavior, depressive symptoms and externalizing problematic behaviors and poor psychosocial functioning (Burbach, Kashani, and Rosenberg, 1989; Cappelli, McGrath, MacDonald, Katsanis, and Lascelles, 1989; Mayes, Handford, Kowalski, and Schaefer, 1988). Moreover, Huesmann, Dubow, and Boxer, 2009) found that parental rejection and abuse can show higher level of aggression in their future life. Similar results were supported by Marshall (2011) as well.

In past few decades aggression grasped a great attention of researchers especially its causes and manifestations among adolescents. Life today is filled with many stressors, across the world and especially in developing countries like Pakistan who faces financial deprivation, security, poverty, terrorism attacks, racism, prejudice, politically unstable conditions, forced invasions, power failures, loss of resources, inflation and joblessness etc. which ultimately creates frustration. Hence extent and manifestation of aggression can vary with respect to age, social status, culture and gender etc. As Degnan and colleagues (2008) argued that when people face too much stressor, they can be aggressive, punitive, over controlling and overprotective. Consequently, when above mentioned behaviors become part of parenting, they could also be strong predictor of developing aggression among adolescents.

Dysfunctional parenting, can lead to two types of aggression, (1) physical or direct and (2) relational or indirect (Lundh, Wangby-Lundh, and Daukantaite, 2014). Direct aggression is a characterized by physical or verbal behavior intended to cause harm to someone (de Almeida, Cabral, and Narvaes, 2015). Indirect or relational aggression (RA) is any attempt to harm another person by manipulating or damaging their social relationships (Crick and Grotpeter, 1995). According to Ostrov and associates (2013), people who show relational aggression, usually threat their targets by saying that they socially exclude them or they will end friendship with them. The aggressor may give a break of silence to the target or sometimes spread rumors, lies and gossips against them. They can also open their wicked secrets which can badly damage the reputation of the target.

If we look at the developmental course of RA it is evident that the children, showing aggression today, can develop future aggressive behavior as well (Krahe, 2013). Consequently many long term studies linked the childhood aggression with adulthood aggression as a continuing factor and have supported the idea that parents as a big social agent of this age become the potential source of developing RA among adolescents. (Barker et al., 2007; Huesmann, Dubow, and Boxer, 2009; Kokko, Pulkkinen, Huesmann, Dubow, and Boxer, 2009). It has been observed that authoritarian parents usually shows the hostile aggression (Pattorson, 1983) which can possibly lead to RA among adolescents, because they cannot express their aggression directly to the source of their frustration (parents). This assumption can be supported by a finding that adolescents are more likely to express their relational aggression to the less threatening people around like peer, juniors, sibling etc. (Dishion and Patterson, 2006).

Parent's gender can also mediate the dysfunctional parenting as a source of relational aggression e.g. in Asian countries fathers are supposed to be stricter than mothers, who are more caring especially in adolescents such as Korea (Rohner and Pettengill, 1985), Japan (Azuma, Kashiwagi, and Hess, 1981) and Pakistan. Whereas child's gender is important on the basis of their expression of aggression as male adolescents are more into physical whereas female are more toward RA (Crick and Gropeter, 1995; Gooch, 2005; Nansel, Overpeck, Pilla, Ruan, and Scheidt, 2001).

In a nutshell, presently literature is available about dysfunctional parenting and its effects on child development (Brown, Arnold, Dobbs, and Doctoroff, 2006) but little has been explored about the relationship between dysfunctional parenting and relational aggression in adolescents (Marshall, 2011). Especially with reference to Pakistani culture and society there is scarcity of studies on such an association. Existing evidences suggest the seriousness of this issue because relational aggression is a psychological state that can lead a person towards further developing anxiety, depression and delinquencies (Marshall, 2011). Hence, there is a considerable need to explore relationship of dysfunctional parenting specifically its aspects of care and overprotection with relational aggression which has not been given much attention till date.

Hence, present research is an attempt in this regard to investigate the relationship between dysfunctional parenting (care and overprotectiveness) with relational aggression in adolescents in Pakistani cultural context. The findings obtained from present research may be helpful to find that how dysfunctional parenting is playing a role in cultivating relational aggression among youngsters. The finding would also be helpful to address the attention of parents, teachers, children/ adolescents, clinicians, policy makers and mental health management authorities of the state so that they can take proactive steps to bring changes for healthy youth and society.

Contemplating the existing literature, following hypothesis is framed for present study:

1. Mother care, mother overprotectiveness, father care and father overprotectiveness would have a predictive relationship with relational aggression among adolescents.

METHOD

Participants

A total sample of 304 adolescents including both male (n= 118) and females (n=186) were selected through stratified random sampling. All the Faculties of the University of Karachi, Pakistan were considered as strata and participants were randomly selected from different departments of each strata. The target population was adolescents so sample was collected only from the BA/BSC first and second year of University of Karachi and it specifically represented the middle and late adolescent's ranges from 17 to 21 years with the average age of 19.11 (+-SD = 0.88).

Measures

Demographic Sheet

Demographic Sheet contained information regarding participants' age, gender, years of education, family system (nuclear or joint), birth order and parental marital status.

Parental Bonding Instrument

Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI; Parker, Tupling, and Brown, 1979) was used to measure low care and high overprotection as determinants of dysfunctional parenting. It is 4 point Likert scale ranging from 'Very like= 3', to 'Very unlike = 0'. The PBI consists of 24 items measuring two sub-scales care (items # 1, 5, 6, 11, 12, 17, 2, 4, 14, 16, 18, 24) and overprotection (items # 8, 9, 10, 13, 19, 20, 23, 3, 7, 15, 21, 22, 25). The PBI was administered separately for mother and father. The test-retest reliability in a non-clinical sample was reported to be .76 for "care" and .63 for protection scale over a three-week interval. The PBI has also demonstrated to have good internal consistency (Parker, Tupling, and Brown, 1979) and construct and convergent validity (Parker, 1983).

Diverse Adolescent Relation Aggression Scale

The Diverse Adolescent Relation Aggression Scale (Horton, 2010) was used to explore the variable of relational aggression. It contains 27 items and respondents are asked to rate using 4 point Likert format ranging from 'strongly disagree', to 'strongly agree'. The Cronbach's alpha is reported to be .78 and test-retest reliability is ranging from .65 to .70.

Procedure

The participants were approached and briefed about the nature of the study. After taking consent and assuring confidentiality each participant has been given a set of research measures. During administration, it was made sure that there shouldn't be more than 10 participants in one setting so that researcher can easily address all the administrative requirements and quarries of the participants. It was also instructed that each item should promptly be attempted by participants. At the end in case participants left any item, they were requested to complete it. They were also thanked for their time and cooperation.

Scoring and Statistical Analysis

The research measures were scored according to standard scoring procedures. The Linear Regression Analysis was employed to test the hypothesis of the present study. Descriptive statistics is also utilized.

RESULTS

Table 1 Descriptive Statistics for the Age of the Participants (N=304)

Variables###M###SD

Age###19.11###0.88

Table 2 Summary of Linear Regression Analysis with Mother Care, Mother Overprotectiveness, Father Care and Father Overprotectiveness as predictors of Relational Aggression (N= 304)

###Predictors###R###R2###Adjusted R2###F###df###Sig.

###Mother Care###.14###.02###.02###5.92###1, 302###.02*

###Mother

Overprotectiveness###.18###.03###.03###9.78###1, 302###.00*

###Father Care###.14###.02###.02###6.25###1, 302###.01*

###Father

Overprotectiveness###.05###.00###.00###0.82###1, 304###.36

Table 3 Coefficients Summary of Linear Regression Analysis with Mother Care, Mother Overprotectiveness, Father care and Father overprotectiveness as predictors of Relational Aggression (N=304)

###Unstandardized###Standardized

Model###Coefficients###Coefficients###t###Sig.

###B###SE###Beta

###Constant###75.14###2.44###30.76###.000**

###Mother Care###-.20###.08###-.139###-2.43###.01*

###Constant###65.78###1.19###54.87###.000**

###Mother

###0.21###.07###.177###3.13###.00*

Overprotectiveness

###Constant###73.27###1.62###45.11###.000**

###Father Care###-.154###.061###-.144###-2.50###.01*

###Constant###68.46###1.06###5.33###.000**

###Father###.057###.06###.053###0.91###.36

DISCUSSION

The present research aimed to empirically observe the dysfunctional parenting as a determinant of relational aggression in adolescents in Pakistani cultural. The results of the present study shows some interesting findings: The mother care, mother overprotectiveness, and father care (Table 2 and 3) are found to be significant predictors of relational aggression in adolescents whereas father overprotection (Table 2 and 3) failed to predict relational aggression in adolescents. The findings reveals that the way parents show their care and warmth if it is turned into dysfunctional in terms of low care and overprotection then it can develop trends of relational aggression among their offspring.

The results open many avenues of understanding of causes behind. One of the reason could be traditional social values which progressively changing in Pakistan; especially in urban areas. People are gradually tilting toward the individualistic life styles instead of collectivistic, which replaced the collective activities with individual or small group activities (Arnett, 2007). Consequently, individualistic approach might make people less tolerant toward social relationships and their demands. Therefore, it can be assumed that when adolescents found their parents more overprotective instead of caring they get frustrated and may show relational aggression especially in young age. These observations are evident for both the genders (Russell, Hart, Robinson, and Olsen 2003; Yoon, 2004). Moreover, Ostrov and Bishop (2008) found that parent-child conflict (reported by parents) are strong predictors of relational aggression among adolescents.

Culture can also be mediating variable between parents and adolescents' relational aggression when it reflects in their brought up. Khan and her colleagues (2003) found that in Pakistani patriarchal society people are expected to comply with elders, suppressing and sacrificing their personal willingness to goodness of the family especially females who are always encouraged to be submissive because they are supposed to go to other families after marriage so, she should be more tolerant. Consequently it may be possible that they have no better outlet to express their aggression other than relational aggression, because it is difficult to show direct aggression to their parental figure as compared to showing the indirect or relational aggression to their relatively less threatening relationships like peers, friends and siblings (Dishion and Patterson, 2006). According to Krahe (2013) people choose relational aggression when the cost of physical aggression is high.

It is scientifically evident that from very childhood till adolescence an individual learns many things from their parents including patterns of social interactions and conflict resolution (Crockenberg and Lourie, 1996; Russell, Pettit, and Mize, 1998). Especially parental care and overprotection can also play important role in developing relational aggression among adolescents through modeling. Such as Casas, and his colleagues (2006) found that relational aggression is more prevalent among those preschoolers who are over controlling and authoritative in nature. Similarly, in case of high care from the parents (especially from mothers), there is fair chance to carry less relational aggression (Casasa et al., 2006).

Moreover, results showed that relational aggression among adolescents was mainly determined by mother's overprotection but not by father overprotection. The reason might be the cultural norms and values, which influences both children and the parents, as in Eastern cultures mothers are supposed to give optimal parenting and father's role is to give financial support (Rehman et al., 2005). This cultural schema may push a child to be more emotionally attached with mother rather than both. Therefore, it can be anticipated that social construct like warmth, closeness to child (Arnett, 2007) protectiveness or overprotectiveness is socially been associated, mostly with mother's role. Utting (2007) argued that adolescent's relationship with their mothers can more significantly affect their development as compare to relationship with their fathers.

In conclusion, the dysfunctional parenting i.e. mother care, mother overprotection and father care were found to be significant predictors of relational aggression in adolescents. However, father overprotection failed to predict relational aggression. The exploration of the reasons behind the insignificant results can also be scope of the future researches. Overall, the findings suggest dysfunctional parenting do play a crucial role in the negative behaviors such as relational aggression in children and adolescents. The results not only support the previous literature but also signify the relevance of the topic with the current social scenarios in which youth aggression is going to be a big trouble for the society and need to be addressed from different perspectives like educational, social, clinical etc.

Yet it confronted some limitations which can be improved in the future researches such as present research have not taken demographic variables like age, gender, and family system difference into considerations. The sample size could also be increased so that it can be representative of the different areas of Pakistan.

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