A new study co-authored by Ann Skinner looks at how parents’ management of stress together predicts how warm and affectionate they are to their adolescent children, and later how their level of warmth impacts aggression in those adolescents. The study, recently published in the Journal of Family Issues, is a departure from most of the existing literature on parental conflict as it focuses on the impact of parental stress and behavior on adolescents versus young children. Data for the study were collected over a three-year period in China, Kenya, Sweden, and Thailand.
Results of the study show that better parental coping experienced by children at age 13 predicted higher levels of parental warmth towards their children a year later at the age of 14. For mothers who participated in the study, higher levels of maternal warmth were in turn related to less aggression in children at age 15, and higher levels of parental coping at age 13 were related to less aggressive behavior at age 15 indirectly through maternal warmth. One explanation for this finding is that when parents do not cope with stressors together as a couple, or do not feel that they are managing stress jointly, youth feel less secure within the family. This insecurity is then linked with adjustment problems, particularly with aggression.Journal of Family Issues »