The form and function of aggressive subtypes: Relations with the goodness of fit between adolescent temperament and parent personality
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The current research investigated whether the interaction between adolescent temperament and parent personality, consistent with the goodness of fit perspective, differentially predicted overt (e.g., kicking, punching, insulting) and relational (e.g., gossiping, rumour spreading, ostracising) forms of reactive (e.g., provoked, a response to goal blocking, unplanned and emotional) and proactive (e.g., unprovoked, goal-directed, deliberate and relatively unemotional) aggression. Mothers, fathers and their adolescent child (N = 448, age 10-17) from southern Ontario, Canada filled out questionnaires on adolescent temperament (i.e., frustration, fear, and effortful control) and aggression. Parents reported on their own personality traits (i.e., agreeableness, conscientiousness, and emotional stability). The form and function of aggression not encompassed by the subtype under investigation were controlled in each regression analysis. Consistent with the hypothesis, results indicated that a poor fit between adolescent temperament vulnerabilities and lower parent personality traits, including agreeableness, conscientiousness and emotional stability, was predictive of greater levels of differentiated aggression. For instance, lower father conscientiousness strengthened the relation between higher frustration and reactive overt aggression. Unexpectedly in some cases, temperament risk factors were more strongly associated with aggression subtypes when personality scores were at higher levels, particularly agreeableness and conscientiousness, traits normally considered to be at the optimal end of the dimension. For example, higher father agreeableness strengthened the relation between higher frustration and reactive relational aggression. At the main effects level, low fearfulness was significantly associated with only the overt subtypes of aggression, and unexpectedly, higher frustration and lower effortful control were related to both proactive and reactive subtypes of aggression. A temperamentally vulnerable adolescent was also at greater risk of displaying aggressive behaviour when the father lacked emotional stability, but not the mother. These results are broadly consistent with the prediction that temperament risk factors are more strongly associated with aggression subtypes when an adolescent predisposition does not fit well with parent personality traits. Mechanisms pertaining to stress in the family environment and the fostering of self-regulation abilities are discussed with respect to why a poor fit between temperament and parent personality is predictive of adolescent differentiated aggression.