Battering at home may do more to turn on aggressive behavior in a child than any other domestic factor, including poverty, divorce or marital violence, said a study published Friday.
Three psychology professors reported in the journal Science that a study that followed 309 children from age 4 into kindergarten showed that those who were physically abused by an adult at home were more likely to be aggressive - or even violent - in difficult social situations.John E. Bates of Indiana University said the study attempted to eliminate from consideration all factors but abuse and found that battering by an adult is the most powerful influence on how a child learns to cope with society.
Included in the study were children from both rural and urban areas, from different social and economic levels and from areas of two states, Indiana and Tennessee.
Abused children were identified by physical examinations and interviews with parents and children. Levels of aggression were determined by a number of tests, including evaluations by kindergarten teachers, who didn't know if the children had been abused, and by interviews with classmates.
Additionally, the studied children were shown videotapes of social situations and asked to describe how they would respond if the situations happened to them.
The results, Bates said, shows that "abuse predicts aggressiveness even after you control for factors such as social class, family disruption and exposure to spousal violence."
He said the study showed that youngsters who had been abused were more apt to respond to all provocative social situations in an aggressive manner that virtually ignored signals that such a response was not appropriate.