Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Albert Farrell


Research suggests that adolescent health requires both reducing problem behavior and promoting the development of social competence. There is strong support for the influence of parenting practices on both aggressive and competent behavior. However, there has been little research to date focused on parental messages, or the verbal communication parents provide to their children, about aggressive and effective nonviolent responses to conflict. The present study used hierarchical regression to examine parental messages supporting fighting and parental messages supporting effective nonviolent responses to problem situations in relation to adolescent aggressive and effective nonviolent behavior. These relations were expected to be moderated by adolescent gender. Additionally, the unique influence of parental messages was explored, relative to the effects of parental behavioral modeling of antisocial and prosocial acts. Messages supporting fighting and messages supporting nonviolent responses were analyzed as distinct constructs in the current study, and were expected to produce different patterns of influence on each adolescent behavior. Discrepancies based on respondent (parent or adolescent) were also anticipated. Participants included a predominantly African American sample of 105 adolescents and a parent or caregiver, who were assessed as part of a larger project evaluating the effects of a neighborhood intervention. As hypothesized, youth reports of parental messages supporting nonviolent responses were significantly related to lower levels of youth aggression, even when controlling for parental modeling. Youth reports of parental messages supporting nonviolent responses also predicted higher levels of effective nonviolent behavior, but these effects could be better accounted for by parental modeling. Contrary to expectation, parental messages supporting fighting did not significantly predict adolescent aggression or effective nonviolent behavior, and only minimal support was found for the moderating influence of gender. As anticipated, youths’ perceptions of parental messages were better predictors of their behavior than were parents’ reports. Overall, the current study’s findings have important implications for violence prevention efforts, and call for continued research.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

December 2009

Included in

Psychology Commons