Date of Award

2003

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Associate Professor Dr Alfred Allan

Second Advisor

Professor Edward Helmes

Abstract

This study examined the parental disciplinary history of male offenders to explore the relationship between report of childhood physical abuse and subsequent violent offending, based on the concept of intergenerational transmission of violence. The study also examined the relationship between reports of childhood physical abuse and juvenile delinquency together with an examination of the links between physical abuse and anger. Finally, this study explored the relationship between witnessing aggression to other family members and the motivation for subsequent violent offending (hostile motivated versus instrumentally motivated). Social learning theory provided the theoretical basis for this research. The underlying premise is that families who utilize physically abusive discipline, and/or who model or reinforce the use of aggressive behavior may set the stage for their children to acquire and utilize aggressive behavior in their adult relationships. One hundred and ninety nine incarcerated offenders (100 violent offenders and 99 non-violent offenders) participated in this study. Participants were interviewed by research assistants using a structured interview format to obtain information regarding the disciplinary style and experience for each of their direct caregivers, types of disciplinary methods used, injuries emanating from the discipline, together with details of quality and quantity of witnessed abuse of others. A structured interview format was also employed to gather information about participants' record of juvenile delinquency. Participants then completed the Novaco Anger Scale Revised (NAS(R)) and the StateTrait Anger Expression Inventory (STAXI). Statistical analyses reveal no significant differences between participants in the violent offender group and non-violent offender group on any of the physical abuse variables. Physical abuse variables were subsequently aggregated to form the Abuse Index. Differences between the violent offenders and non-violent offenders on this measure failed to reach statistical significance. Participants in the violent offender group scored significantly lower on a sub-scale of the STAXI (Anger Expression/Control) compared with participants in the non-violent offender group. There were no other significant differences between the groups on any other anger variable. The witnessing of the physical abuse of others was significantly related to instrumental violence among participants in the violent offender group. Whilst there were no significant differences between the groups on the abuse variables, the self-report of physical abuse in childhood was positively correlated with all other variables including juvenile delinquency, anger and offending. Juvenile delinquency and anger were also positively correlated. This provides a model for understanding the relationship between parental style and offending behavior. Results are then discussed in the context of the contribution of this study to the level of knowledge of the cycle of violence. The limitations of the study are then noted, including issues pertaining to the utilization of retrospective studies. Suggestions for further research include an assessment of participants' perception of the fairness of physical discipline reported, the inclusion of early attachment history, and the verification of self-reported physical abuse.

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