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Study: verbal aggression may affect children's behavior
Date:8/4/2008

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The methods mothers use to control their children during playtime and other daily activities could have a negative impact on their child's self-esteem and behavior, according to a new Purdue University study.

"It's hard to tell parents how to interact with their children based on one study, but what we see here is that parents who have a propensity for being verbally aggressive have a tendency to try to direct and control their children during a play period," said Steven R. Wilson, a professor of communication who specializes in family issues. "As a result, these children were less cooperative, and not only are parents setting up situations that are challenging for them to handle, but they also are subtly undermining their child's self-esteem."

Wilson and Felicia Roberts, an associate professor of communication, are lead authors of a study that appears in the July issue of Human Communication Research journal. The researchers videotaped 40 mothers as they played with one of their children, ages 3-8, during a 10-minute, unstructured play period. The mothers also completed a series of questionnaires to assess their general tendency to be verbally aggressive toward others. For example, someone who is verbally aggressive is likely to insult others as a way to motivate them to comply or behave.

The researchers found that mothers who were high in the general tendency to be verbally aggressive often tried to take control of the play period. For example, the four mothers with the highest verbal aggression scores on average were attempting to direct their child's actions once every 12 seconds, while the four mothers with the lowest verbal aggression scores tried to do so only about half as often. In addition to verbally aggressive mothers telling a child to play with a different toy or to stop playing, they also used negative body language, such as restraining a child by the wrist or shoulder, to reinforce their co
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Contact: Judith Barra Austin
jbaustin@purdue.edu
765-494-2432
Purdue University
Source:Eurekalert

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