A new study has shown how much parents can influence their child’s behaviour in future relationships.
Parents who talk to their children about nonviolent ways of resolving conflict may reduce children's likelihood of physically or psychologically abusing their dating partners.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Adolescence, surveyed a random sample of more than 1,000 students (ages 11-14) about their parents' views on handling conflict over a seven year period.
Researchers asked the kids if their parents condoned fighting as long as someone else started it and asked if their parents urged them to stay calm or walk away if someone said something disrespectful to them.
The majority of students reported that they received a combination of peaceful and aggressive messages from their parents about handling conflict.
The study also focused on dating violence - if they had experienced it and if there was a link with parental actions.
The adolescents were asked if they had engaged in six forms of physical violence (i.e. shoving their romantic partner) and four types of psychological aggression (i.e. intentionally provoking jealousy in their boyfriend or girlfriend).
The study’s author, social work professor Rachel Garthe, said the results showed a high prevalence of dating violence among the students surveyed - the majority of which were from disadvantaged areas.
Almost half of the students (35-45 percent) indicated that they'd committed at least one act of physical or psychological aggression against a boyfriend or girlfriend.
However, the current study suggests parents in these neighbourhoods can reduce this dating violence by communicating nonviolent methods of dealing with challenging situations, the author said.
“Violence-prevention programming in economically disadvantaged urban communities should consider the mixture of messages - both violent and nonviolent responses to conflict - that adolescents may be receiving from their parents," she urged.
"Promoting parental support for nonviolent responses to conflict may protect youths from perpetrating dating violence.
“These findings show the value of parents advocating nonviolent responses to conflict.
"Youths may be getting a mixture of both violent and nonviolent solutions from their parents, but in our study it was those nonviolent messages that really protected kids from perpetrating violence in their romantic relationships.”