When studying factors that may heighten risk for relational aggression in youth, it is important to consider characteristics of both the individual and their environment. This research examined the associations between parental psychological control and reactive and proactive relational aggression in emerging adults in college. Given that sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activation may underlie differences between reactive and proactive aggression and has been shown to moderate the effects of parenting on youth development, the moderating role of SNS reactivity [indexed by skin conductance level reactivity (SCLR)] was also examined. Emerging adults (N = 180; 77.2 % female) self-reported on perceptions of parental psychological control and reactive and proactive relational aggression. SCLR was assessed in response to an interpersonal laboratory challenge task. Parental psychological control was positively associated with reactive relational aggression only for emerging adults who exhibited high SCLR. Parental psychological control was positively associated with proactive relational aggression only among emerging adults who showed low SCLR. This study extends previous research on parenting and aggression and suggests that parental psychological control is differentially associated with reactive versus proactive relational aggression, depending on emerging adults’ SCLR to interpersonal stress.
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We thank the UVM Family Development Lab for assisting with this study. We also thank the youth who participated in this study.
CW conceived of the study, participated in the design and coordination of the study, co-drafted the manuscript, performed statistical analyses, and interpreted the data. JA participated in the design and coordination of the study, and co-drafted the manuscript. All authors approved the final manuscript.
University funding was used to fund this study.
Conflicts of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in this study.
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Wagner, C.R., Abaied, J.L. Skin Conductance Level Reactivity Moderates the Association Between Parental Psychological Control and Relational Aggression in Emerging Adulthood. J Youth Adolescence 45, 687–700 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-016-0422-5
- Autonomic stress reactivity
- Emerging adulthood
- Sympathetic nervous system