The reasons as to why children who grow up in an aggressive or violent household are more likely to become violent or aggressive in future relationships have been unraveled by Indiana University researchers.
John Bates, a professor of psychology in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, writes in the study report that kids who grow up in aggressive households may learn to process social information differently than their peers who grow up in non-aggressive environments.
"Children with high-conflict parents are more likely to think that aggressive responses would be good ways to handle social conflicts. This partly explains why they are more likely as young adults to have conflict in their own romantic relationships," writes Bates, a co-author of the study.
For his study, Bates began collecting data for this study in 1987. Parents and children were recruited from Nashville and Knoxville, Tennessee, and Bloomington, Indiana.
When the children were five, they and their parents were interviewed.
At ages 13 and 16, the researchers presented the adolescent offspring with hypothetical social situations, asked them to express their perceptions and reactions to the events, and predict what they would have done in the situation.
From ages 18-21, the offspring reported on the amount of aggressive behaviour in their romantic relationships.
Amy Holtzworth-Munroe, an Indiana University psychologist who has co-written the study report, says that unlocking the developmental link between growing up in an aggressive or violent household and becoming the perpetrator of such behaviour can prove useful for stopping the cycle of violence.
The researcher believes that this research has implications for treatment and prevention.
"For example, treatments for male batterers may want to address a person's ability to evaluate his responses to certain social situations," said Holtzworth-Munroe.
Bates, however, cautions that this study is just one piece of the puzzle.
"This is probably not the only factor mediating this association. We want to know how these processes work alongside other factors, such as emotional regulation, social skills or genetic processes," he said.
The study has been published in the Journal of Family Psychology.