Verbally aggressive mothers direct their children’s behavior

West Lafayette, IN – July 9, 2008 – Researchers led by Steven R. Wilson of Purdue University videotaped forty mothers as they completed a ten minute play period with one of their children between the ages of three and eight years. The mothers then completed a series of questionnaires including the Verbal Aggressiveness Scale.

Mothers who scored higher on the self-reported VA Scale engaged in more frequent directing of their child’s behavior during the play activities. These mothers were more likely to control activity choices as well as the pace and duration of activities. High VA mothers did so repeatedly and in a manner that tended to enforce an activity choice they had made. Low VA mothers were more likely to follow their child’s lead or seek their child’s input about choice of activity.

High VA mothers used physical negative touch (PNT) when trying to change their child’s actions. Examples of parental PNT by high VA mothers included restraining a child by the shoulder or the wrist to prevent him or her from reaching a toy. No instances of PNT occurred for low VA mothers.

In addition, children with low VA mothers displayed virtually no resistance to their mother’s directives. Children with high trait VA mothers occasionally resisted their mothers’ directives, though this resistance tended to be indirect and short-lived.

“Our study has implications for parenting classes and interventions,” the authors conclude. “In addition to talking about why it is important for parents to avoid lots of verbally aggressive behavior to avoid damaging their child’s self-esteem, parents who have this tendency also need to learn how to follow their child’s lead and read their child’s signals, as opposed to just taking over the play period themselves.”

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This study is published in the July 2008 issue of Human Communication Research. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact journalnews@bos.blackwellpublishing.net.

Steven R. Wilson is affiliated with Purdue University and can be reached for questions at wilson25@purdue.edu.

Human Communication Research is one of the official journals of the prestigious International Communication Association and concentrates on presenting the best empirical work in the area of human communication. It is a top-ranked communication studies journal and one of the top ten journals in the field of human communication. Major topic areas for the journal include language and social interaction, nonverbal communication, interpersonal communication, organizational communication and new technologies, mass communication, health communication, intercultural communication, and developmental issues in communication.

Wiley-Blackwell was formed in February 2007 as a result of the acquisition of Blackwell Publishing Ltd. by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and its merger with Wiley’s Scientific, Technical, and Medical business. Together, the companies have created a global publishing business with deep strength in every major academic and professional field. Wiley-Blackwell publishes approximately 1,400 scholarly peer-reviewed journals and an extensive collection of books with global appeal. For more information on Wiley-Blackwell, please visit www.blackwellpublishing.com or http://interscience.wiley.com .

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