Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Paternal Hostility and Maternal Hostility in European American and African American Families

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Paternal Hostility and Maternal Hostility in European American and African American Families

Article excerpt

Previous research suggests that hostile parenting behaviors (e.g., criticism, insults, arguments, shouting, hitting, threatening, and expressions of anger directed toward children; Taylor, Larsen- Rife, Conger, & Widaman, 2012) jeopardize the healthy development of children and adolescents (for a meta-analysis, see Hoeve et al., 2009). These behaviors have also been described as "coercive" (e.g., Granic & Patterson, 2006) and have been proposed to precipitate a cycle in which these hostile behaviors are exchanged between parent and youth, escalating until one side capitulates, thereby negatively reinforcing these behaviors. According to coercion theory (Patterson, 1982), this type of hostile or aversive behavior by a parent teaches the youth that hostility can be an effective way to solve problems with others, thus paving a developmental path for externalizing symptoms outside as well as inside the family. Research by Patterson and his colleagues (e.g., Patterson, 1982) on parental hostility and negativity has primarily focused on the behavior of mothers in European American (EA) families. In the present study, we extended previous research by including data from mothers and fathers in both EA and African American (AA) families.

Research on fathering and child development has been relatively neglected in previous research, and few studies have considered whether parent gender influences the association between parent hostility and youth delinquency. In an exemplar of the type of research that is lacking, Stolz, Barber, and Olsen (2005) attempted to disentangle fathering behaviors from mothering behaviors in terms of their influence on child development. Contrary to usual assumptions, their findings suggest that fathering may have a greater overall impact than mothering on child adjustment, suggesting that neglect of fathers misses an important dimension of parental influence on development; however, their study did not examine the effects of hostile parenting. In the current investigation we extended this work by examining the independent effects of hostile parenting behaviors, which have been linked to a range of physical and mental health problems in children and adolescents (Repetti, Taylor, & Seeman, 2002) on youth delinquency. Consistent with recommendations by Pleck (2010), we conducted analyses using prospective longitudinal data, simultaneously considered mother and father effects, and assessed the degree to which children may influence the hostile behaviors of parents. We also evaluated whether parental hostility has similar effects in EA and AA families.

PARENTAL HOSTILITY

Mounting evidence implicates paternal hostility in the development of youth maladjustment (e.g., Reeb, Conger, & Wu, 2010). Despite this, findings have been inconsistent, and one question that has not been sufficiently addressed is whether paternal hostility contributes to youth delinquent behaviors beyond the effects of maternal hostility. This issue has both theoretical and practical implications. In terms of theory, it is important to know whether frameworks such as coercion theory generalize to father-child dyads. In terms of practice or intervention, research that identifies significant father effects would accentuate the need for family-based behavioral intervention and prevention programs to include fathers, whose participation is increasing but continues to lag behind that of mothers (Smith, Duggan, Bair-Merritt, & Cox, 2012). In addition, research in this area could encourage needed research evaluating the efficacy of parenting programs for fathers (Bronte-Tinkew, Burkhauser, & Metz, 2012). On the other hand, if paternal hostility does not have an impact on children beyond maternal hostility, then it would be appropriate to keep the focus on mothers.

Although several studies of parent hostility have included data from mothers and fathers, most have been limited by several factors. For example, some of the studies on parental hostility have examined fathers and mothers in separate analyses and affirmed that paternal and maternal hostility each predict youth externalizing problems when examined separately (Carrasco, Holgado, Rodríguez, & del Barrio, 2009; Denham et al. …

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