Angry parents harm children's behaviour

A child's behaviour may be negatively impacted when their parents are easy to anger or quick to over-react. This is the suggestion of new research published in the journal Development and Psychopathology, which found these mothers and fathers are more likely to raise kids who upset easily and act out in certain situations.

Investigators from Oregon State University (OSU), Oregon Social Learning Center and other institutions discovered youngsters displayed negative emotionality when their mums and dads were annoyed.

In addition, it was shown that toddlers had more temper tantrums than what is deemed normal for their age when their parents over-reacted to mistakes their little ones had made.

Shannon Lipscomb, Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Sciences at OSU Cascadesaid: "Children with elevated levels of negative emotionality during these early years have more difficulties with emotion regulation and tend to exhibit more problem behaviour when they are of school age."

Professor Judy Hutchings OBE, Fellow of the British Psychological Society and Director of the Centre for Evidence Based Early Intervention at Bangor University, commented:

"The Oregon Social Learning Centre is one of the foremost research centres on violence prevention on the planet and this new research confirms what we know already - that the most powerful influence that parents have on their children is through the behaviour that they model for them.

"This provides children with a template of how to respond to any new situation. So parents that react with anger or negatively to the many challenges presented by toddlers fail to recognise the frustrations that toddlers experience at a time when their ability to explore their environment is greater than their comprehension of risk and danger. This failure to scaffold children and coach the more complex emotional regulation and social skills results in a greater frequency and intensity of behaviours such as tantrums that are exhibited by many toddlers.

"Fortunately we now know that there are a number of strongly evidence-based programmes for parents, based on psychological principles, that result in significant improvements in parenting capacity in terms of increases in positive parenting and reductions in negative parenting that have immediate and sustained improvements in child social skills and self management.

"The better parenting programmes also have generalised effects that produce significant improvements in parental mental health and problem solving skills."