Verbally aggressive mums control their kids' behaviour, choices

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Washington, July 10 : A new study has shown that verbally aggressive mothers tend to control their kids' behaviour by directing their activity choices as well as using physical negative touch when trying to change their child's actions.

In the study, the team 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.

The team found that mothers who scored higher engaged in more frequent directing of their child's behaviour during the play activities.

They were more likely to control activity choices as well as the pace and duration of activities. Verbally aggressive mothers did so repeatedly and in a manner that tended to enforce an activity choice they had made.

However, those who scored lower on verbal aggressiveness scale were more likely to follow their child's lead or seek their child's input about choice of activity.

Verbally aggressive (VA) mothers also used physical negative touch when trying to change their child's actions that included restraining a child by the shoulder or the wrist to prevent him or her from reaching a toy.

On one hand where children with high verbally aggressive mothers often resisted their mothers' directives, on the other, children with low verbally aggressive mothers displayed virtually no resistance to their mother's directives.

"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 behaviour 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," they added.

This study is published in the July 2008 issue of Human Communication Research.

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