Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of Psychology


Behavioral Neuroscience

Content Description

1 online resource (ii, 33 pages) : color illustrations.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Elana Gordis

Committee Members

Betty Lin


Aggressive Behaviors, Autonomic Functioning, Biosocial Interaction, Harsh Parenting, Positive Parenting, Skin Conductance Level, Aggressiveness, Parenting, Parent and child, Galvanic skin response

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology


Parenting plays a crucial role in one’s development and well-being. The association between harsh parenting and later aggression problems is well established. However, harsh parenting may not occur in a vacuum. Harsh parenting may occur within a varying degree of positive parenting. Research has shown that positive parenting can act as a protective factor against the adverse effects of harsh parenting. Moreover, autonomic nervous system activation may moderate the effects of harsh parenting on aggressive behavior. The goal of this study was to examine whether sympathetic nervous system activity, as measured by skin conductance level (SCL), and positive parenting, moderate the link between harsh parenting and later aggressive behavior among emerging adults. Participants (N = 264, mean age = 19.37, 122 males, 142 females) reported retrospectively on experiences of harsh and positive parenting as well as current anger, hostility, verbal and physical aggression. Resting SCL was also measured. Regression analysis examined whether resting SCL, positive parenting, harsh parenting, and their interaction accounted for current physical aggression, verbal aggression, anger, and hostility. Analyses revealed that (1) a low level of resting SCL and high level of positive parenting and (2) a high level of resting SCL and low level of positive parenting, exacerbated the link between harsh parenting and anger. Moreover, a positive association was found between harsh parenting and hostility among emerging adults who exhibited high resting SCL. The results of the present study are consistent with the biological sensitivity to context theory (Ellis & Boyce, 2008), in that those with higher autonomic activity are most negatively affected by the adverse situations of high harsh parenting and low positive parenting. This study highlighted the importance to examine the interactions between biological and psychosocial mechanisms underlying emerging adult’s aggression.