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The Role of Poor Parenting and Parental Approval for Children’s Moral Disengagement

Abstract

Research indicates that involving families is essential to success of bullying intervention. Moral disengagement is a strong predictor of aggressive behavior including school bullying. We were interested in the proximal role of parents in late childhood and early adolescence for moral disengagement. We examined whether the relation between specific poor parenting practices and moral disengagement was mediated by expected parental approval of aggression and whether age was a moderator in a theoretical moderated mediation model. We used two-wave longitudinal data of 609 students (50% boys, 52% 5th grade, 48% 7th grade). The results are complex and differ across the two age groups. In late childhood, repeated corporal punishment was associated with higher levels of moral disengagement 1 year later, and this relation was mediated by an increase in expected parental approval of aggression. Also, low levels of monitoring and supervision were directly associated with higher levels of moral disengagement 1 year later. In early adolescence, lower levels of monitoring and supervision were associated with higher levels of moral disengagement 1 year later, and this association was partially mediated by an increase in expected parental approval of aggression. These results demonstrate that in late childhood and early adolescence, poor parenting practices, more specifically harsh discipline and poor monitoring, are relevant for moral disengagement, partly because they create the expectation of parental approval for aggression.

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Author Contributions

K.C.: designed and executed the study, analyzed the data, and wrote the paper. A.N.: collaborated with the design and writing of the study, assisted with the data analyses. E.M.: collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript

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Correspondence to Kristel Campaert.

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Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

At the time of the study there was no IRB at the University of Florence. All procedures performed in the study were in accordance with the ethical standards on research with juvenile participants recommended by AIP, Italian Association of Psychology and APA guidelines.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Campaert, K., Nocentini, A. & Menesini, E. The Role of Poor Parenting and Parental Approval for Children’s Moral Disengagement. J Child Fam Stud 27, 2656–2667 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1097-1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1097-1

Keywords

  • Moral disengagement
  • Parental approval
  • Poor parenting
  • Corporal punishment
  • Monitoring and supervision