Status of Research on Parental Warmth/Rejection and Violence

Borduin and Schaeffer (1998) review the risk factors for adolescent violence and conclude that family relations of violent delinquents are more disturbed than those of nonviolent delinquents. Parental warmth and rejection have been associated with children’s peer aggression (e.g., MacKinnon-Lewis, Starnes, Volling, & Johnson, 1997), criminal violence (Loeber & Dishion, 1984) and dating violence (e.g., Brendgen et al., 2001). As earlier mentioned, rejection by parents features prominently in Dutton’s work on abusive husbands (e.g., Dutton et al., 1996).

Nonetheless, most important reviews of risk factors for violence do not include parental warmth or rejection, and there are some notable exceptions to the pattern we have reported above. For example, in a statistical model testing the association between early aggression and later violence, Brendgen et al. (2001) did not find that maternal or paternal warmth were associated with violence. Huesmann et al. (2006) report nonsignificant correlations between parental rejection and various indicators of physical aggression among females in the Columbia County Longitudinal Study. Li (2007) found no significant correlations in a sample of 364 Chinese elementary school children. There are numerous other examples. The confusing nature of the research when examined in any piecemeal fashion suggests that a systematic review might be needed to ascertain the status of research on this issue; we supply that below.

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