The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.

-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Topic: What We Don’t Talk About in Coverage of School Shootings

The News Story: What Decades Of Covering School Shootings Has Taught Me

The New Research: Aggressive Teens—Permissive and Absent Parents

 

The News Story: What Decades Of Covering School Shootings Has Taught Me 

Two more students are injured and the gunman dead in yet another school shooting this week, this time in Maryland. Only a few weeks after the deadly Parkland, Florida, shooting, America is still reeling.

In a piece for NPR, Claudio Sanchez—who has covered decades worth of such events—covers the history of how Americans have tried to deal with school shootings. First, he says, was the era of “zero response”—no putting up with troublemakers. Then, and still, some argue for stricter punishment, even the death penalty. The Federal government released a “threat assessment guide” to help teachers pick out students who may be problems. So what has helped? Nothing, Sanchez said: “it's clear to me that students are just as vulnerable today as they were 20-25 years ago. . . . In large part, because students have access to high-powered weapons, a problem that schools have no say in or control over.”

A common denominator which is persistently left out of the discussion, however, is the role that single parenthood plays in encouraging aggression in teens. Suzanne Venker over at Fox News highlights that of the 27 deadliest mass shootings in American history, “seven of those shootings were committed by young males since 2005. Of the seven, only one—Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho—was raised by his biological father throughout childhood.” Years of research backs her claims—any true discussion of how to stem the tide of school violence must begin with a discussion of how to keep families together.

(Source: Penny Starr, “8 Million Mothers from 150 Countries Sign Declaration: ‘The Era of Radical Feminism is Over,’” Breitbart, March 2, 2018.)

 

The New Research: Aggressive Teens—Permissive and Absent Parents

Educators and public officials know all too well that when young people turn aggressive—in their attitudes or in their physical behavior—it causes trouble, for others and for themselves. But what social circumstances incubate such aggression in children? A new study out of the University of Texas at Dallas suggests that parents foster social aggression in their teen children when they opt for the permissive style of parenting long favored by progressive freethinkers and that they catalyze both social and physical aggression in their offspring when they break up, leaving just one parent bearing the burden of child-rearing.

Clarifying the need for the study they have conducted, the Dallas researchers point out that “Children and adolescents who behave aggressively are at greater risk for psychological maladjustment, conduct problems, and incarceration.” To determine which children are most likely to experience such long-term difficulties, the researchers look at two different types of aggression, both of which begin to appear among children about the time they enter preschool: 1) social aggression, manifest in behaviors such as “social exclusion, manipulating friendships, and malicious gossip,” behaviors “designed to cause harm to an individual’s social status or friendships”; and 2) physical aggression, evident in behaviors such as hitting, kicking, and biting. Interested in the evolution of aggression across time, the researchers track the trajectories of both types in a sample of 158 girls and 138 boys ages 9 to 18, all students in a large ethnically diverse public school system in the southern United States.

The authors of this study find that such parental permissiveness breeds social aggression. “Permissive parenting,” report the researchers, “was a predictor of [children’s] following the high social aggression trajectory.” Unpacking this finding a bit, the researchers explain that “permissive parenting in middle childhood predicted following higher social aggression trajectories across many years, which suggests that parents setting fewer limits on children’s behaviors may have lasting consequences for their peer relations.”

Unfortunately, the same progressive philosophy prompting parents to give their children a free rein has infected many state legislators, legislators who have rewritten marital law so as to permit parents to divorce for any and all reasons. Predictably, the number of children living with just one parent has exploded. And this new study reveals that these children of single parents are especially likely to live aggressively. According to that study, “Following high trajectories of both social and physical aggression was predicted by coming from a single-parent household.”

When looking at social aggression, the Dallas scholars find that “having married parents reduced the odds of [children’s] being in either the high or medium social aggression trajectories relative to the lowest trajectory in every [time] specification.” When looking at physical aggression, the researchers likewise find that “having married parents reduced the odds of being in the high trajectory compared to the low throughout [the study period].”

As they lead their high-profile crusades against bullying, progressives never tire of expressing their horror at every kind of aggression. But as the latest research makes clear, in both their advice on parenting and their reforms of divorce law, progressives have actually been turning America’s young people into social and physical aggressors.

(Source: Bryce Christensen and Nicole M. King,  “New Research,” The Natural Family 30.1 [Winter 2016]. Study: Samuel E. Ehrenreich et al., “Family Predictors of Continuity and Change in Social and Physical Aggression from Ages 9 – 18,” Aggressive Behavior 40.5 [2014]: 421-39.)