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What Types Of Parents Are More Likely To Physically Abuse Their Children?

why do parents physically abuse their children?

Stith’s (2009) Meta-Analysis :

A study carried out by Stith et al. (2009) reviewed 155 other studies (this is called a meta-analysis) that had already been carried out in order to identify factors that put the child at risk of physical abuse by his/her parents.

In order to identify these factors, one part of Stith’s study examined which particular characteristics of the parent put that person at increased risk of physically abusing his/her child. I list these characteristics below :

Characteristics Of Parents That Increase The Probability That They Will Be Physically Abusive Towards Their Child/Children (according to Stith’s, 2009 meta-analysis of 155 previously published studies) :

  • alcohol abuse by parent
  • the parent is single
  • the parent is unemployed
  • the parent abuses drugs
  • the parent approves of corporal punishment as a means of instilling discipline in / control over the child
  • parent has poor coping skills
  • parent has health problems
  • parent has poor problem solving skills
  • parent lacks social support
  • parent is involved in criminal behavior
  • parent is under significant stress
  • parent suffers from significant anxiety
  • parents suffers from mental illness
  • parent suffers from depression
  • parent suffers from low self-esteem
  • parent has problems controlling own anger
  • parent had dysfunctional relationship with own parent/s
  • parent suffers from hyper-reactivity / has poor control of emotions

Which Of The Above Are The Biggest Risk Factors?

According to Stith’s (2009) research, of the 18 risk factors listed above, those which put the parent at highest risk of physically abusing his/her child were as follows :

  • parental hyper-reactivity
  • parental problems controlling own anger

Other Considerations : Family Factors :

Stith also found that, in addition to the above factors, certain factors relating to the family could also increase the risk of a parent physically abusing his/her child. These were as follows :

  • poor level of family cohesion
  • significant conflict within the family
  • low level of marital satisfaction
  • violence between the spouses
  • low socioeconomic status
  • the family includes a non-biological parent
  • size of family
Which Of These Family Factors Put The Child Most At Risk Of Being Physically Abused Within The Home?

According to Stith’s (2009) research, of the seven risk factors listed above, those which put the parent at highest risk of physically abusing his/her child were as follows :

  • significant family conflict
  • poor level of family cohesion

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

Effects Of Repressed Anger Towards Parents

repressed anger

Above video summarizes this article.

What Are The Effects Of Repressed Anger Towards Parents?

If our parent/s caused us significant psychological suffering when we were growing up, we may have built up a great deal of anger towards them, but we may, too, have repressed that anger and its cause (ie. buried it deep inside our unconscious).

This repression of anger can occur because consciously facing up to the fact our parents emotionally damaged us so much and that this has made us so angry would be too psychologically painful. Hence, we do not allow ourselves to be consciously aware of this; this is what’s known as a psychological defense mechanism.

However, this repression of the real cause of our anger creates problems. One main problem is that we tend displace (re-direct) this anger onto targets who are not responsible for having created it. The result is we might often become inappropriately and disproportionately angry with people who don’t deserve it (eg. getting into bar – room fights, ‘road rage’ etc).

Alice Miller, the internationally famous expert on how our childhood experiences affect our adult behaviour went so far as to suggest it was Hitler’s own repressed anger which led to World War Two!

repressed_anger

The diagram above shows feelings which often drive and lie beneath the surface of anger.

There are many other signs which may indicate that we are suffering from repressed anger which I list below:

Possible Symptoms Of Repressed Anger:

1) Depression (Freud was of the view that depression is caused by anger being redirected against the self. He also believed that by bringing the real reason for our repressed anger into our conscious minds could very substantially relieve us of our psychological misery and pain. We need to accept this anger, realize its complete validity and not feel guilty about it)

2) Sarcasm (redirecting our hostility towards our parents through being sarcastic to others)

3) Extreme sensitivity to being rejected (if our anger was caused by our parents rejecting us, this is very likely to make it a extremely hard for us to deal with rejection in our adult life)

4) Becoming disproportionately angry due to trivial causes (such as spilling some coffee)

5) Constant tiredness (repressing anger depletes mental energy)

6) Tension in our muscles

7) Addictions (to numb our emotional pain, eg. alcohol, drugs, exercise, shopping, work, food)

8) Nervous habits (such as nail-biting, skin picking)

9) Passive aggression (expressing anger indirectly)

10) Occasional explosive outbursts of rage when the pressure

repressed anger becomes overwhelming).

How Can Repressed Anger Be Treated?:

Repressed anger and its causes need to be gently uncovered in a safe environment with a suitably qualified therapist. The anger then needs to be diffused in a healthy way (ie not in a way which harms the self or others). On no account should the anger be expressed through violence, as this clearly does hurt others and, one way or another, the self as well, compounding the problem substantially.

Resource:

 

anger-management-hypnotheray Anger Management Self-Hypnosis Audio Pack. Click here for further details

 

eBook:

anger_management

Above eBook now available from Amazon for instant download. Click here for more information.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Childhood Trauma : Dealing with Moodiness and Anger

 

anger and moodiness in childhood

Those of us who have suffered significant childhood trauma often find, in both adolescence and adulthood, that we are full of rage and have great difficulties controlling our feelings of anger. Reasons for this include the conscious or unconscious hostility we feel towards our parent/primary care-giver whom we believe to have significantly contributed to our mental anguish . Such feelings can lead to us :

a) directly expressing our anger towards our parent/primary care-giver

b) DISPLACING the anger we feel towards our parent/primary care-giver onto others (especially if we IDENTIFY such others with our parent/primary care-giver e.g. a therapist) even though they were not the primary cause of it

c) both of the above

d) REPRESS our anger towards our parent/primary care-giver (ie deny it/bury it deep within ourselves) so that we are NOT CONSCIOUSLY AWARE OF IT. If this happens, unconscious processes may take place which cause us to turn this anger in upon ourselves resulting, perhaps, in  self-loathing,  clinical depression,  suicidal thoughts/behaviours and/or psychosomatic illnesses.

 

controlling_mood_swings

FLUCTUATING MOOD :

We may find, too, that, as adults who experienced severe childhood trauma, our moods are far more prone to change than the average person’s. We may, for example, find our feelings of intense irritation and anger are much more easily triggered than they are in most others. In short, we may find our moods and emotions are highly unstable and unpredictable. This, in turn, can cause others to be wary about interacting with us, perhaps feeling that, when they do, they are ‘walking on eggshells.’

We are especially likely to experience problems controlling our moods and emotions if our adverse childhood experiences have led to us developing a mental illness such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

 

how-to-control_mood_swings

 

WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP OURSELVES TO CONTROL OUR MOODS/OUTBURSTS OF ANGER?

1) If we have a mental illness, such as BPD or PTSD (as referred to above) we should very seriously consider obtaining specialized treatment to ameliorate such conditions. Cognitive-behavioural therapy and dialectical behaviour therapy are two possible options).

2) Improve our diet – for example, a high intake of sugar can cause intense highs and lows directly affecting our mood.

3) Cut down on caffeine and alcohol, both of which can have powerful effects upon how we feel

4) Avoid recreational drugs – this is especially important if we are vulnerable/have a pre-disposition) to developing mental illness. Recreational drugs can tip people over the edge (eg cannabis-induced psychosis).

5) Try to tackle any sleep problems – lack of sleep/sleep deprivation is very likely to make us more irritable/prone to anger.

6) Reduce stress as much as possible – this is extremely important as, when we feel under attack and generally oppressed, then, much like a cornered animal, we are far more prone to ‘lash out.’ This is an inbuilt, biological defense mechanism. If we have been drinking due to stress and, as a result, our inhibitions are lowered, we are particularly at risk of destructive behaviours which we are liable, later, deeply to regret.

Furthermore, if we suffered severe childhood trauma, it is possible that the development of vital brain regions such as the amygdala were adversely affected. Such damage is now known to make it much harder to deal with stress and to make the individual who sustained it generally more emotionally unstable (click here to read my article on this).

 

RESOURCES :

MANAGE YOUR ANGER PACK (downloadable MP3 0r CDs) CLICK HERE

 

EBOOK :

 

content_4964975_DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL

Above eBook now available on Amazon for IMMEDIATE DOWNLOAD CLICK HERE

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

When Ten Year Olds Turn Killers – The Case of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson

cropped-childhood-trauma-fact-sheet15.png

The case of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson is well known, so it is not necessary to go into details about it here. Suffice it to say, they were both, at the age of ten, found guilty of abducting and murdering the two year old James Bulger.

childhoods_of_jon_venables_and_robert_thompson

 

Above: Artist’s impression of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson in court with their legal representatives.

Surprisingly, there seems to have been little media interest in examining the early life experiences of either of the two boys who were prosecuted for the crime, so, in this article, I will look at the environments in which they grew up in order to establish if it is possible to find some clues as to what caused their deeply aberrant behaviour.

Clearly, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson had profoundly intense pent-up anger which they displaced, in a most shocking way, onto the toddler, James Bulger, whom they abducted. But from where did this anger originate? In order to answer this question, it seems common sense to look at their respective home backgrounds.

Robert Thompson had six siblings and it has been written that both he and they were neglected. Furthermore, Robert’s father left the family home when the young boy was just five years old; and this, it seemed, exacerbated his mother’s drinking problem. At one point, too, she attempted to commit suicide.

On top of this, Robert’s father was violent, and, before he left his family, had frequently behaved in a threatening and intimidating way towards Robert, and had also physically punished him on regular occasions.

It appears that due to this extremely stressful environment, all the children in the family became disturbed, taking out their anguish on one another – they would, for example, threaten one another with knives.

Indeed, the family was so disrupted, chaotic and unhappy that one child asked to be taken into care. When he later had to come back to the family home, such was his distress that he attempted suicide.

One point, in particular, I think, goes to show  the extreme extent to which Robert’s mother neglected him : she was rarely with him to provide emotional support on the many days that it was necessary for him to attend court.

Jon Venable’s family, too, was deeply unhappy and unstable – indeed, this state of affairs had led his parents to divorce. His mother, it seems, was something of a narcissist (click here to read my article on narcissism) and was, apparently, far more concerned about her love-life (she had a constant stream of boyfriends) than she was with looking after Jon. She also suffered from mental health problems (predominantly depression) and, like the mother of Robert, had attempted to commit suicide.

Jon was frightened of his mother as she could behave menacingly towards him – he would, for example, take refuge by hiding underneath chairs. More worrying still, he would cut himself with knives (click here to read my article on the relationship between childhood trauma and self-harming).

Together, Jon and Robert would be absent from school without permission. They would shop-lift and become involved in violent incidents. They had also displayed cruelty towards animals – shooting pigeons with air rifles and tying rabits to railway lines so that they were run over by the trains. Such cruelty towards animals is known to be one of the risk factors which predict the development of anti-social personality disorder (sometimes referred to as psychopathy) in adult life (click here to read my article on the link between childhood trauma and the development of anti-social personality disorder).

POSSIBLE EFFECTS OF ENVIRONMENT ON THE BRAIN DEVELOPMENT OF ROBERT THOMPSON AND JON VENABLES :

The healthy development of a region of the brain called the PREFRONTAL CORTEX depends, to a large degree, upon the child experiencing warm, loving, affectionate relationships as he grows up. Jon and Robert were deprived of this which, in turn, is likely to have damaged the development of these brain regions (essentially, without these positive relationships, the brain does not produce enough OPIATES which are needed for the proper development of the particular brain area).

The Prefrontal Cortex :

imagesprefrctx

 

The above diagram shows the position in the brain of the prefrontal cortex – it is this area which was possibly damaged in both Robert Thompson and Jon Venables

The prefrontal cortex is responsible for self-control, empathy and the regulation of strong emotions such as anger. If, then, Jon’s and Robert’s prefrontal cortices were not properly developed, this would provide at least part of the explanation as to why they behaved as they did.

eBooks :

emotional abuse book   childhood anger ebook

 

 

Above eBook now available for immediate download from Amazon. CLICK HERE.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

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