Abuse, Parental Rejection, and Violence

In Chapter 7, we asked whether indicators of parental warmth were still associated with violence in studies that included a control for abuse. Here, we ask whether abuse is still associated with violence in comparisons that control for parental attachment, warmth or rejection. To enhance our understanding of this issue, we introduce a few studies that were not included in our tables for this chapter because they did not have nonviolent outcomes. On the whole, associations between physical abuse and violent behavior generally remain statistically significant in models controlling for indicators of parental warmth and attachment (e.g., Tyler et al., 2011; Stacks et al., 2009). There have been some contradictory findings, however. Alink et al. (2009) report that although “negative discipline” was associated with aggression in young children, controlling for earlier aggression, it was no longer significant when they controlled for maternal sensitivity. Haskett et al. (2008) reported the same progression of findings in their study of 7 year-olds. Cusick et al. (2012) found that sexual abuse but not physical abuse or neglect were associated with violence in a model controlling for closeness to mother and father, but because they included all three abuse variables in the model, the finding is difficult to interpret.

Due to a paucity of studies, we cannot trace the evidence on this issue for neglect victimization or sexual abuse victimization.

In Chapter 7, we saw that parental rejection may be one of the strongest parent relational predictors of violence, and we explained how abuse may exert its impact on violence because it is a sign of parental rejection. Despite its importance, however, only one study controlled for parental rejection. The authors found that both indicators of physical abuse were still significantly associated with violence in a Finnish sample, but the associations with sexual abuse, psychological abuse and neglect were not significant (Haapasalo, & Moilanen, 2004).

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