Parenting affects likelihood of aggression

It may or may not surprise you, but the way we parent our children does have an effect on how they turn out.

New data released in May by the Canadian Institute for Health Information revealed parenting style is linked with youth aggression, delinquency and criminal behaviour.

According to this study, punitive parenting was associated with negative results in children.

Just over 20 per cent of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15 who said their parents frequently yelled or threatened to hit them also reported being aggressive themselves. More than a quarter of teens who felt rejected by their parents reported aggressive behaviour.

Children aged 12 and 13 who were depressed or hyperactive were more likely to report high levels of aggressive behaviour and delinquent acts.

On the other hand, kids who never reported aggressive behaviour had higher self esteem, good stress management, and were self motivated.

Further, children of parents who nurtured them and monitored their activities had fewer contacts with peers involved in criminal or delinquent activity.

Other positive situations which appear to have a protective effect on children include families who do things together, parents with high expectations for school performance and families where at least one parent is at home either in the morning, after school, at supper time or bed time.

Youth who reported positive school experiences in the survey were also less likely to be aggressive. This makes sense as children who enjoy school are likely connected to their community and less likely to engage in activity harmful to the community.

Although there are many factors interacting in a young person's life that can affect the likelihood of involvement in aggressive or delinquent behaviour, we know parenting plays an important role.

As parents it is important that above all we show our children they are valued and loved. Unconditional love and acceptance will go a long way toward developing a healthy self esteem and will also increase the likelihood of your child confiding in you when life is stressful or difficult.

Open communication with our children is also critical if we want to be aware of what they are doing and who they are hanging out with.

Finally, as parents we need to model the behaviour we hope to see from our children. If you don't want your child to be overly aggressive, it makes sense to show other ways of dealing with stress or frustration. If you don't want your child involved in disrespectful or criminal behaviour - model that in your own life as well.

This report is titled Improving the Health of Canadians: Mental Health, Delinquency and Criminal Activity. You can see the full report online at


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