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The persistence of early childhood physical aggression: Examining maternal delinquency and offending, mental health, and cultural differences

Journal of Criminal Justice
DOI: 10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2014.06.001
  • Criminology
  • Economics
  • Psychology


Abstract Purpose To examine the persistence of physical aggression in preschoolers and associated correlates (i.e., socio-demographic, socioeconomic, criminality, parenting practices, maternal mental health). Methods One-year follow-ups are completed with 240 mothers and their preschool children (boys and girls) from the Vancouver Longitudinal Study on the Psychosocial Development of Children. A series of structural equation models are examined. Results Maternal psychological symptoms, juvenile delinquency, and adult offending are associated with higher levels of physical aggression in their offspring. Children of non-Caucasian mothers and those born outside of North are less physically aggressive. Cultural differences in the correlates of physical aggression were identified. Conclusions Maternal past delinquency, current adult offending, and mental health are important factors in the development of children’s physical aggression. The findings suggest that there are multiple pathways leading to chronic physical aggression, which may be culturally-based. Cultural differences should be taken into account when developing programs and intervening with families of children with behavioral problems.

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