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Nurturing Parents Can Cut Risk of Aggression in Girls

Teens who mature early without positive feedback more likely to choose bullying behavior

TUESDAY, Aug. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Positive parenting can help ease aggression in adolescent girls who go through puberty early, says a study by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

On the other hand, precocious teen girls whose parents don't nurture them, communicate with them, or keep track of their activities are more likely to be display aggressive behavior, they also found.

The study included 330 fifth-grade girls (average age 11) and their parents. The girls were asked how often they engaged in aggressive behavior (hitting, teasing, spreading rumors) and in delinquency (fighting at school, getting injured in a fight, or inflicting injuries).

The girls were also asked about how often their mother was affectionate, how often they did things together, whether their parents had talked to them about violence, tobacco and sex, and whether they'd started their periods.

The parents were asked about several items, including how much they knew about their children's friends and how their child spent their free time.

One-quarter of the girls in the study had matured early -- defined as beginning their period one year before the average age for females of their racial and ethnic group. The study found that these girls were more likely to be delinquent, but not aggressive.

However, early-maturing girls who had low levels of parent nurturing, communication and knowledge were more likely to be aggressive.

The findings were published in the August issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Parental nurturing may decrease girls' susceptibility to negative peer influence. Also, it may help girls cope with challenges associated with early puberty. By listening to their daughters' difficulties and providing support and encouragement, nurturing parents can help them develop better coping skills and diffuse negative emotions that might otherwise manifest as aggression, the study authors wrote.

More information

The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center has more about girls and bullying.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Aug. 4, 2008

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