Monday, May 27, 2002
By Charnicia E. Huggins NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Children who are disciplined by regular slapping or scolding and those who experience lax parental monitoring may be more likely to be involved in violent dating relationships during their later teenage years, new study findings show. "The family is an important place where you learn violence," lead study author Dr. Francine Lavoie of Laval University in Quebec, Canada, told Reuters Health. In families that use psychological violence and physical punishment, children learn ways of expressing themselves and "learn that violence is efficient," she said. Also, "not being monitored is another type of message: that you can do whatever you want (and) that there are no consequences to what you do." These findings are based on Lavoie's investigation of the effect of family dysfunction on dating violence. She and her colleagues studied 717 boys over an 8-year period, beginning when the boys were 10 years old. At ages 10 to 12, slightly more than one third (35%) of the boys said they were regularly slapped, called names or otherwise subjected to harsh parental discipline over at least a 2-year period, the investigators report in the May issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health. Eighteen percent reported being improperly monitored. Furthermore, by the time the boys reached the ages of 16 and 17, roughly 40% of them said they were psychologically violent in their dating relationships, 3% said they were physically violent and nearly 18% described themselves as both psychologically and physically violent. Overall, reports of harsh parental practices were directly linked to later dating violence, so that boys who said they were consistently subjected to psychological and physical parental abuse were more likely to be violent in dating relationships. Lax parental monitoring during childhood, on the other hand, was indirectly linked to dating violence through the boys' subsequent reports of antisocial behavior, or delinquent acts, such as theft, vandalism and substance abuse. "If you were not properly monitored by parents and become delinquent, you are at risk of perpetrating dating violence," Lavoie said. The findings indicate that early interventions are needed to help families develop positive ways of interacting, such as expressing warmth, proper discipline and monitoring, according to Lavoie. "Dating violence prevention should be offered to delinquents in their teens, because they are at risk of abusing their partner emotionally or physically, especially if they also report substance abuse problems," Lavoie said. SOURCE: Journal of Adolescent Health 2002;30:375-383.