A large longitudinal study provides new evidence that adolescents with parents who punish and humiliate them are at higher risk of bullying at school.
Children who are regularly subjected to ridicule and humiliation by their parents while at home are also at greater risk of becoming victims while at school.
This is highlighted in a new study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. According to the authors, members of the Charles E. Schmidt School of Science at Florida Atlantic University, Concordia University in Montreal, and Uppsala University in Sweden, derogatory and punitive attitudes of parents towards their children can lead to bullying.
A vicious circle of negative emotions
To reach this conclusion, the researchers followed 1,409 children for three years, from 13 to 15 years of age.
The results show that adolescents who are subjected to regular humiliation, provocation, punishment or criticism at home are at greater risk of developing uncontrolled anger. According to researchers, anger is indicative of the difficulties in regulating one’s own emotions, which generally translate into negative emotions, verbal and physical aggression, and hostility. In adolescents who are intimidated and humiliated in private, this unruly anger increases and puts them at greater risk of intimidation and victimization because they are no longer able to regulate their emotions with their peers.
Previous research on the factors that contribute to school bullying has shown that adolescents who are bullied by their parents are at greater risk of developing mental health problems, behavioral difficulties, and suicidal thoughts, compared to victims who receive emotional support from their families, and compared to adolescents who are not bullied.
Identifying the specific family origins of bullying can be a key step in limiting or preventing these poor outcomes, say the authors of the study.
“Inappropriate interpersonal reactions seem to spread from parent to child, where they lead to difficulties with peers,” says Brett Laursen, professor of psychology at Charles E. Schmidt School of Science and co-author of the study. Specifically, parental teasing precipitates a cycle of negative effects and anger among parents and their kids, leading to increased victimization and bullying.
According to the researchers, the results of this new research are important because they provide “a better understanding of how the parents mocking, teasing and humiliating of their adolescent children can affect the teen’s ability to maintain positive relationships with their peers.