A model was presented describing the reciprocal influence of disruptions in parent discipline practices on irritable exchanges between the target child and other family members. Disrupted parent discipline and irritable microsocial exchanges within the family were hypothesized to provide a basic training for aggression that generalizes to other settings such that the child is identified by peers, teachers, and parents as physically aggressive. Physical fighting was thought to lead to rejection by the normal peer group, which was hypothesized to feed back to further exacerbate fighting.
Multilevel assessment including interview, questionnaires, laboratory studies, and home observations were carried out with the families of 91 preadolescent and adolescent boys. Nine indicators from the assessment battery were used to define the constructs Inept Parental Discipline, Negative Microsocial Exchanges, Physical Fighting, and Poor Peer Relations. Structural equations (LISREL VI) were used to describe the relations among the constructs. The t values for the path coefficients were significant. A chi-square analysis showed an acceptable fit between the model and the empirical findings.
The findings were interpreted as being consistent with the hypothesis that under certain circumstances, family interaction may serve as basic training for aggression. In the present study, interactions with siblings in the home seemed to serve a pivotal role.