Harsh parenting linked to aggressive behaviour: study

TORONTO – A positive parenting style can help protect young people from becoming involved with substance use, delinquency and violent behaviour, a new study suggests.

The 87-page report released Tuesday by the Canadian Institute for Health Information analyzed various research and policy initiatives and crunched data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth from Statistics Canada.

“One of the things we wanted to do with this is really sort of step back and through a lens of mental health examine some of the factors that are associated with youth delinquency and criminal behaviour,” said Jean Harvey, director of CIHI’s Canadian Population Health Initiative.

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Young people who never reported engaging in aggressive behaviour had high self-esteem, good stress management and self motivation, she said.

“Those were found to be sort of the protective factors around not being involved with delinquent behaviour and criminal activity.”

In terms of risk factors, those aged 12 and 13 who reported hyperactivity and depression were more likely to report high levels of aggressive behaviours, and high levels of delinquent acts involving property.

When parents nurtured and monitored their children, those kids had fewer contacts with peers who were engaged in criminal behaviour, Harvey said.

And the analysis showed that punitive parenting was linked to negative results – 21 per cent of youth aged 12 to 15 who said their parents frequently yelled or threatened to hit them reported often being aggressive. And 26 per cent of youth who felt their parents rejected them reported they were often aggressive.

“Certainly when we’re talking about the nurturing parents and the parental monitoring, I think those are good messages for parents to understand, and that they really do have an effect on the children and on their behaviour,” Harvey said.

In addition, she noted that when families do things together, when parents have high expectations for school performance and when at least one parent is home during one of four times of the day – whether it’s in the morning, after school, dinnertime or bedtime – it all seems to confer a “protective” effect.

And not surprisingly, kids who reported positive school experiences were more likely to report not being aggressive than youth who reported fewer positive experiences.

“Children that are connected to the school and they feel a positive bond to their community and their society … had reduced delinquency,” Harvey said.

She said the report, entitled Improving the Health of Canadians: Mental Health, Delinquency and Criminal Activity, is intended to help policy makers with decisions, but the findings would also be of interest to the general public, parents and the school system.

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