Roy Herrenkohl, professor at the center for social research, spoke in Price Hall Wednesday about his experience and research involving abusive child rearing and childhood aggression.
Photo: Peter Sayer
Professor Roy Herrenkohl
Herrenkohl discussed his article, "Preschool Antecedents of Adolescent Assaultive Behavior: A Longitudinal Study." He gathered information for 17 years for the article.
Herrenkohl raised two questions to open his lecture. First, he asked if there is a relationship between abusive parenting in early childhood and violent behavior in adolescence.
Second, he asked if there is a relationship, how can an intervention strategy prevent assault? In his questions he implied that aggression usually comes from things that occurred early in a person's childhood which probably has something to do with the the actions of the parents or guardians.
Later in the lecture he discussed the implications of school-age aggression and why children are more aggressive in their younger years. Children show more difficulties with peers, more school problems, isolation and emotional problems, according to Herrenkohl.
"The number one cause for assault is within the personality, next up to that is broken homes and changes in school systems. Things are always underestimated," Herrenkohl said.
He then explained different theoretical perspectives that he developed. These include social learning and infant attachment. Infant attachment affects children who are not securely attached. These children tend to have more emotional and social problems than other children, he said.
Social learning is linked to infant attachment, but is related to older and more mentally advanced children. The last theoretical perspective is escalating risk factor, where these problems are looked at as a progression.
Herrenkohl's study started in 1976. His research consisted of 300 families and 457 pre-school children.
The research consisted of different help programs such as abuse protective services, Head Start, day care and middle income programming.
The research was focused on pre-schoolers from 1976 to 1977 and on school age children in 1980 to 1982. From 1990 to 1992 the study focused on adolescents, ages 16 to 21.
There were several dimensions of child rearing that were studied. They consisted of physical punishment, which included severity of physical discipline and negative interaction and hostility of parents toward their children. He also studied neglect, which is lack of physical and emotional care. Lastly he studied sexual abuse.Herrenkohl said assault included fighting, hitting, rape and use of force. This then led the discussion toward looking at the impacts of social environment on aggression."Does the social environment cause more severe mal treatment? This allows family and marriage conflict, which influences children's development. The social environment provides lack of social support."
Herrenkohl explained his study showed that only a fraction of the children studied were successful, that means graduation from high school and moving on to further their education. The majority of the abused children end up dropping out of school, he said.
To wrap things up, Herrenkohl said, "Children must bond with their mothers, so their growth as an individual will have more maturity and then they will be able to trust the world." [Emphasis added]
"Any type of separation between a child and parent will only lead to an emotionally disturbed child. These type of children only gravitate towards children like them. This makes for school systems that are filled with trouble-makers." Herrenkohl stated.
In closing, Herrenkohl talked about the importance of the parental role in preventing emotionally disturbing situations which can change the outcome of their child's life.
He said, "That intervention must begin early, which will hopefully get parents to monitor their children's discipline."