Behind a child with aggressive behavior there is a negative family environment

March 17, 2010

Children who use violence usually come from conflictive families; as has been shown by a number of research studies. The psychologist, Arantzazu Bellido, has reaffirmed this phenomenon for the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country (CAV-EAE). She undertook surveys with a number of families in the Basque province of Bizkaia, adapting previously used questionnaires to this end and creating new ones specifically designed for this study. Ms Bellido demonstrated that, effectively, there is a direct relationship between a child's behaviour and their family environment. She has written her results and conclusions for her PhD thesis, presented at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU).

The PhD thesis was entitled Family context and aggressive behaviour in 8-year-old children. For her research Ms Bellido visited a number of schools in the Basque province of Bizkaia, undertaking questionnaires in 251 families with children of eight years of age. The researcher based her methodology on the ecological model; i.e. apart from the child, she took factors into account that have effect on the context in which he or she develops. Thus, the children, as well as their family members, friends and school mates, took part in the survey.

The questionnaires used in the research had been adapted to the case of the CAV-EAE; the task of adaptation was, in fact, one of contributions of Ms Bellido's thesis. On the one hand, she used a number of questionnaires previously used and validated in Spain and adapted them to the CAV-EAE. Ms Bellido also created new questionnaires. For example, she drew up a questionnaire analysing the views of parents regarding the process of children growing up and other ones which gathered demographic and socio-economic data.

Absence of parents, one of the keys

Amongst the 251 families surveyed, there were 15 children who showed aggressive behaviour and, of these, two were highly aggressive. As the psychologist explained, they are not very high figures, but underlying them she found some interesting data. For example, some of these aggressive children are looked after by uncles/aunts or grandparents.

It is precisely the factors corresponding to the family context that are determinant in the child being aggressive, according to what can be deduced from the thesis. Besides the factor already mentioned (the absence of parents), particularly outstanding are: a restrictive paternal - but not maternal - discipline (educational discrepancy and restriction-permissiveness), lack of satisfaction of the child with his or her family environment and an unbalanced distribution of domestic chores which basically fall on the mother, who also works outside the home (stress).

Apart from these, there is also another factor that has especially caught the attention of Ms Bellido: the poor initial predisposition of the idea of paternity. According to the researcher, in this case, although when the attitude of the parents and their relationship with the child subsequently improve, the child has behavioural problems. The psychologist believes that this fact may open a line of research, based on the relationship that arises before birth, during pregnancy, in the uterus.

Rejected at school

As regards characteristics that do not correspond to family environment, in the school context, aggressive children have an aversion to learning, are rejected by his or her schoolmates, are considered to be strong, have bad behaviour in class, are not considered to be cowards and are victims of other aggressions. As regards relationships within peer groups, lack of social adaptation is observed amongst aggressive children, as well as a high level of conflict, absence of social restriction and a perception of hostility from others.

Finally, the PhD thesis also took into account the individual characteristics of the subjects themselves; these are the most difficult to define, being highly personal. Ms Bellido concluded that aggressive children are especially dominant; and this is one of the most determining features as regards individual analysis. Besides this, she highlighted sensitivity, anxiety and the extroversion-introversion binomial.
About the author

Arantzazu Bellido Ituño (Bilbao, 1977) is a graduate and PhD in Psychology. She undertook her PhD thesis under the direction of Enrique Bernardino Arranz Freijo and Manuel Norberto Sánchez de Miguel, both from the Department of Basic Psychological Processes and their Development at the Faculty of Psychology. She is currently a family psychologist, specialising in childhood, adolescence and gender violence.

Elhuyar Fundazioa

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