Bullied children can often display -- and become tolerant of -- negative behavior, but a new study determined that a mother's warmth can prevent aggression and antisocial behavior in some kids, especially girls.
The study analyzed data collected from more than 1,000 children, over the age of 8, on whether they had been bullied; about 68 percent reported having been bullied within the last month. Researchers also visited the families at home to evaluate family conflicts and how a mother acted toward her children -- if she was warm and showed pride/pleasure, or if she was cold and harsh. (For this particular study, fathers were not included.)
Girls who received affection and who communicated well with their moms were less likely to internalize the bullying and feel like a victim. But even if boys received maternal warmth, they still absorbed the negative effects of bullying, and antisocial behavior actually increased over five years.
However, mothers also reported less communication with their sons, making the case that increased conversations may lessen the negative impact of bullying on boys.
"Children who develop hostile and distrustful relationships with their parents due to low parental warmth and responsiveness may adopt similar patterns of negative expectations when engaging with peers, as a result of their greater fear and anxiety," said Grace Yang, lead author of the study.
Researchers even speculated that boys' behavior might improve with a stronger and supportive network of friends, versus girls who "depended on the parent and family dynamics."
Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She's a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn
Image: Bullied boy via Shutterstock