Aggression and Perceptions of Parenting among Urban Public Middle School Students
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Adolescent aggressive behavior is a major social problem in the United States and is linked to violence and violence-related injury. Understanding the relationship between parenting and early adolescent aggression provides important insights for developing prevention interventions. This study explored the relationship between parenting and early adolescent aggression in an urban low-income, predominately African American sample. The first aim was to examine whether aggression-specific parenting practices and parenting style predicted subsequent early adolescent aggression. The second aim was to examine the extent to which parenting style moderated the relationship between aggression-specific parenting practices and subsequent early adolescent aggression. The third aim was to explore the bidirectional relationship between parenting (parenting style and aggression-specific parenting practices) and early adolescent aggression. A total of 209 sixth grade early adolescents attending two Baltimore City middle schools completed questionnaires about their overt and relational aggressive behaviors at two time points. Early adolescents also reported on their perceptions of a parent or guardian's parenting style (support/behavioral control and psychological control) and aggression-specific parenting practices (aggression-avoidance parenting practices and aggression-endorsing parenting practices). Adjusted logistic regression results indicated that early adolescents who reported having a parent who supported aggression avoidance strategies were less likely to engage in overt aggression. Study findings also showed that parent support for aggression avoidance strategies ameliorated the tendency toward aggressive behavior when parenting styles were at their least protective levels. A bidirectional relationship between parenting and early adolescent aggression was not found; however, Structural Equation Modeling results indicated significant relationships between early adolescent aggression and subsequent parenting. Early adolescent overt and relational aggression predicted declines in parenting practices and parenting styles associated with buffering early adolescents from aggression. The results of this study suggest that parenting practices and parenting styles may exert a minor influence on early adolescent aggressive behavior in an urban low-income, predominately African American sample. Future research should investigate the role of multiple environmental influences (i.e., parenting, family, peer networks, community violence exposure, school environment) in the prediction of early adolescent aggressive behavior in this population.