Abuse as a Potential Confound

Abusive parents are presumably more likely to reject children, and, as discussed above, their abuse is also likely to be interpreted as rejection by their children. Therefore, disentangling the effects of parental warmth requires that analysts attend to the possible interplay between abuse and rejection. Studies that provide estimates of the impact of warmth on physical aggression without taking abuse into consideration may be capturing the effects of physical abuse or neglect within those estimates. In some studies, the authors examine rejection as a potential mediator of the effects of abuse, and in some studies of abuse, the authors control for rejection. We will look closely at such studies.


Protective effects

Some authors have argued that parental warmth serves as a protective influence in the lives of children exposed to criminogenic risks. Loeber et al. (2008) define a protective factor as not just the opposite of a risk factor but as a factor that interacts to explain why a person at high risk does not become deviant. McCord (1991) was an early advocate of this point of view and reported that maternal affection can be protective against the ill effects of having a criminal father. Werner and Smith (1992) explored correlates of resilience in juvenile delinquents in Hawaii (the Overcoming the Odds study). One of their major conclusions was that the parents of delinquents who did not go on to commit adult crimes were more actively involved with their child, showing support by appearing in court and attending counseling. The protective effects of parental warmth have also been found in research on a multitude of other criminogenic factors including harsh physical punishment and other forms of maltreatment (e.g., Deater-Deckard, Ivy, & Petrill, 2006; Luthar, 2006; Lynskey & Fergusson, 1997; Miller, Loeber, & Hipwell, 2009), interparent violence (Harper, Arias, & House, 2003; Skopp, McDonald, Jouriles, & Rosenfield, 2007), peer rejection (Patterson et al., 1989), biological risk for psychopathy (Riggins-Caspers & Cadoret, 2001), and other psychosocial risks (Laucht, Esser, & Schmidt, 2001). Thus, the evidence is accumulating that warmth is protective against criminogenic influences, but whether these same factors protect against the development of violence, per se, is not yet known.

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