Aggressive Children May Stem from Controlling Parents

The idea that aggression, both physical and emotional, arises in children from their observations of the methods used by their parents is fairly common, the need for greater research into the paths by which youths develop their behaviors is clear. In an effort to better understand a range of facets about the use of aggression and other controlling techniques among children and their parents, a study was performed in Belgium with telling results about the ways in which children are influenced. The study followed six hundred children ranging in age from eight to ten years old, along with their families, providing surveys about the ways in which behavior was controlled within the home.

In addition to these surveys, the participating children were scored as to their levels of physical and emotional aggressiveness not only by parents, but by their schoolteachers and peers as well. After collecting a great wealth of data, the researchers discovered that those children who lived in physically aggressive environments were considerably more likely to exhibit the same behaviors of physical aggressiveness at home and in school. Interestingly, however, children who were frequently exposed to relational aggression, described as the intentional manipulation of a relationship in order to serve some end, were found to practice similar behaviors at home but not among their peers or in school.

These distinctions may shed light on the presence of examples and influences from sources other than parents among the experiences of developing children. In tandem with this consideration, the strength of the adoption of physical aggressiveness may become a more prevalent concern among those in the mental health and family therapy professions. While the study is of great benefit in the quest to understand precisely how and why children develop their behavioral patterns, the continuation and diversification of such research is necessary to achieve a more accurate perspective.


© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • LaScala


    September 10th, 2009 at 7:14 PM

    I think that’s all about boundaries. Children know when and where they can get away with doing things in a certain way and when they can’t, just like adults. The guy who would scream at his wife over something isn’t going to do the same thing to a policeman that pulls him over unless he’s wanting locked up.

  • Jan Mullen LCSW

    Jan Mullen LCSW

    September 11th, 2009 at 6:57 AM


    It is my sense of children, as well as adults, that we are meant, at our core, to be peaceful. In the Internal Family Systems model, it is felt that our core Self has inherent qualities of calmness and compassion. I find it most helpful to approach a situation in which a child is aggressive, not as one where they have a natural aggression which needs to be curbed, but as ‘why has this child felt the need to be aggressive’? Following that will lead in a different direction, one of helping the child to work through the underlying fears and hurts which lead to aggression, so he may find his peaceful inner self.

    The highly acclaimed approach to child rearing, Love and Logic, makes a strong argument against seeing the role of parents as policemen. In doing that, parents train their children to always expect external control, rather than believe that they can mature into having internal controls to organize and regulate their emotional lives.

    in peace,

    Lombard, Illinois

  • Stefen


    September 11th, 2009 at 10:37 AM

    As a parent, I have found out,like many others, that kids do the things they are asked not to do, and the probability of them doing those things increases as we persuade them more and more to stay away from those things. Funny it may seem to be, but it is a fact. Explanation with love and care helps more than strict controlling measures in my opinion.

  • Jordan


    September 11th, 2009 at 2:56 PM

    Score another point in the nature column. Parents, this is the kind of message that we need to see that the things we do and allow our kids to see really do have a profound impact on the people that they grow up to be!

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