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Parental Verbal Affection and Verbal Aggression in Childhood Differentially Influence Psychiatric Symptoms and Wellbeing in Young Adulthood

NCJ Number
Child Abuse & Neglect Volume: 38 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2014 Pages: 91-102
Ann Polcari; Keren Rabi; Elizabeth Bolger; Martin H. Teicher
Date Published
January 2014
12 pages
This cross-sectional study examined the effects of parental verbal aggression and affection during childhood on measures of psychopathology and well-being in a community sample of 2,518 individuals (18-25 years old).
Structural equation models indicated that verbal aggression by a parent was predominantly associated with effects on psychiatric symptoms scores; whereas verbal affection was primarily associated with effects on measures of well-being. There was a strong regressive relationship between maternal verbal aggression scores and ratings of depression in respondents with low exposure to verbal affection from both parents. The moderation analysis showed that high levels of exposure to verbal affection did not mitigate the effects of verbal aggression from the same parent; and high levels of verbal affection from another parent did not generally result in a significant mitigation of the effects of verbal aggression. On the other hand, consistent parental verbal affection in childhood apparently lays the foundation for a lifetime of feeling more contented in adulthood. Future studies should explore the mechanisms of underlying processes by which childhood experiences influence adult well-being. Future studies should also examine the effects of other positive parental behaviors, such as physical affection, so as to better measure the influence of feeling love and cared for by parents. Ratings of exposure to maternal or paternal verbal aggression were assessed with the Verbal Abuse Scale. Ratings of exposure to verbal affection were assessed with the Verbal Affection Questionnaire. Self-reported ratings of psychiatric symptoms and well-being during the 1 week prior to starting the surveys were obtained with the Symptom Questionnaire. The moderation analysis and structural equation modeling procedures are explained. 6 tables, 2 figures, and 39 references