Associations Between Parental Psychological Control and Relational Aggression in Children and Adolescents: A Multilevel and Sequential Meta-Analysis

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Abstract

Youth aggression has been associated with negative parenting practices, but previous research about this association has mainly focused on physical and verbal aggression. Because more subtle forms of aggression are considered at least as harmful as their physical and verbal counterparts, there is a growing scientific interest in parenting practices that are linked with relational aggression. Guided by social learning theory, a link between youth relational aggression and parental psychological control has been postulated, but the empirical evidence is inconsistent. The present meta-analysis provides a multilevel and sequential quantitative synthesis of 165 dependent effect sizes (23 studies) encompassing 8,958 youths. Across studies, a positive, albeit weak, association between parental psychological control and relational aggression was found. The sequential analysis demonstrated that sufficient cumulative knowledge was attained to yield convincing evidence on this overall association. Moderator analyses revealed that developmental period and assessment method were associated with differences in research findings. Overall, however, results suggest that clarifying the precise role of psychological control in the development and maintenance of relational aggression requires more targeted primary research, which in turn would allow additional and more complex synthesis efforts with potentially more nuanced conclusions.

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