Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

I've Got My Own Problems: The Impact of Parental Stressors on Parental Anger

Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

I've Got My Own Problems: The Impact of Parental Stressors on Parental Anger

Article excerpt

Introduction and Background

Many theories attempting to explain delinquent behavior include the role of parents (for example, see Agnew, 1992; Akers, 1985; Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990; Hirschi, 1969; Patterson, 1982; Sampson & Laub, 1993). A variety of parental mismanagement practices have been studied in order to determine their influence on delinquent behavior (Stewart, Simons, Conger, & Scaramella, 2002; Patterson, 1982; Patterson, DeBaryshe, & Ramsey, 1989; Patterson & Stouthammer-Loeber, 1984). In addition to the influences of parental mismanagement practices, ecological models recognize the importance of the environment in shaping delinquent behavior (Bronfenbrenner, 1986; Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 1998; Garbarino, Bradshaw, & Kostelny, 2005). According to Bronfenbrenner (1986), the development of the child is indirectly influenced through the environment and interaction of parents. Moreover, Bronfenbrenner (1986) contends that parents' places of employment, social networks, and community are three exosystems that are especially likely to affect family functioning and development of the child.

A more recent consideration for understanding delinquency is the examination of parental thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and beliefs, termed parental competencies (Rose, Glaser, Calhoun, & Bates, 2004). Rose and colleagues (2004) developed the Juvenile Offender Parent Questionnaire (JOPQ) to "theoretically and clinically" assess parental competencies; that is, the emotional contributions of parents of court-involved youth (p. 27). Although Rose et al. (2004) developed the parental competency measures, they did not empirically test their scale; however, other researchers have done so (Bradshaw, Glaser, Calhoun, & Bates, 2006; Cook & Gordon, 2012).

The parental competency construct consists of factors such as parental exasperation, parental resignation, anger toward the child, mistrust of the juvenile justice system, parental monitoring, fear of the child, and parent perceptions of the child's exposure to violence (for a thorough discussion of the factors, see Cook & Gordon, 2012).

These parental competencies were tested to determine whether they were predictive factors in the offending patterns of juvenile probationers (Cook & Gordon, 2012). Two main findings emerged, revealing that parental monitoring and anger toward the child were consistently significant predictors of delinquency across estimated models. Although researchers now have a better understanding of the relationship between parental monitoring and delinquency (Bean, Barber, & Crane, 2006; Byrnes, Miller, Chen, & Grube, 2011; Fagan, Van Horn, Antaramian, & Hawkins, 2011; Udell, Donenberg, & Emerson, 2011), less is known about the relationship between parental anger and delinquency. Anger can be a normal emotion experienced by parents, but high levels of anger are likely to have a negative influence on the relationship between the parent and the child. An obvious assumption about the sources of parental anger may include dealing with a difficult child or, as in this case, a court-involved child; however, such narrow reasoning is misinformed and misleading.

Given the lack of information on parental anger specific to court-involved youth, this paper takes a step back and explores various aspects of parents' lives that may provide information about the sources of parental anger. Considering the assertion by Garbarino et al. (2005) that families should be studied from an ecological perspective, this study makes theoretical, practical, and logical sense. In acknowledging how parents' environments contribute to their own levels of anger, consideration of substance abuse, depression, unemployment, single-parent status, mistrust of the juvenile justice system, and parents' perceptions of attachment to the child will be examined. Therefore, the present study is an attempt to bridge the gap in the literature as it pertains to the sources of parental anger, collectively termed parental stressors from this point forward. …

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