There are a number of reasons why parents or other family members engage in Hostile-Aggressive
Parenting when exercising their parental/guardian authority. It is important for all persons who
have to deal with persons exhibiting HAP behaviours so that they can better understand why these
persons are behaving in this manner. Some of the main causes, described briefly, are:
Anger and revenge
Anger and revenge and the inability to control it, are the most common underlying causes of
Hostile-Aggressive Parenting behaviour. Usually, when a couple separates, there is a lot of pain
and hurt caused by the separation. Unfortunately, many parents are unable to deal with their hurt in
a positive way and, instead, focus their emotions in a damaging way towards their former spouse
and family. Their anger and need for revenge against the other parent takes control to some extent.
In severe cases, these emotions can become the main motivating factors in those persons’ lives.
Although anger and revenge are basic human reactions, they can be kept largely under control and
their adverse affects on children eliminated if the appropriate intervention strategies are employed
through the court process coupled with the proper support from the community.
Jealousy and fear
In some cases, parents may fear that their own relationship with their child is not strong enough and
worry that their child may develop a stronger relationship with the other parent. Some parents may
fear that they may lose custody of the child to the other parent if the child’s bond with the other
parent becomes too strong. As a consequence, the fearful parent may resort to Hostile-Aggressive
Parenting in the hope of strengthening their own bond with the child at the expense of the child’s
relationship with the other parent. Jealousy and fear are often high up on the list when a parent
believes that their child may want to spend more time with the other parent, especially when
custody and parenting time is yet to be determined by the court. Some parents may resort to HAP
fearing that the court may reduce their involvement with the child or not grant their bid for sole
custody of the child.
Power and Control
Some parents simply have a desire for power and control over the child and the child’s other parent
and the child literally becomes their tool to accomplish this. Often, this thirst for power and control
over the other family situation can last for many years, if not a lifetime. The use of the child as a
means to have power and control over the other parent is most common in situations where a child
has been placed under the sole custodial power of only one parent or where one parent has a
significantly greater period of time with the child. In addition to the money that will often flow to
the custodial parent from the non-custodial parent, parents who have custody of children are often
able to make further financial demands and accounting of their former partners, year after year.
Religious conflicts between parents are also a power and control issue with parents of different
religions wanting the child to follow the beliefs of his/her own religion.
Personal financial gain is also another strong motivator to hostile-aggressive parents. Gaining
custody and control of the children involved is often desired as a way of increasing one party’s
personal financial gain to the disadvantage of the other parent. Hostile-Aggressive Parenting can
help achieve this by helping to gain custody and child support for the child. For the parent with
custody of the child there are huge rewards – child support payment, income tax credits and other
child tax credits. Between child support and the other tax benefits, the amount of money involved is
usually amounts to thousands of dollars per year, much of it tax-free.
Mild to severe personality/psychiatric disorders
In a very small number of cases where HAP has been identified, one or a number of recognized
personality/psychiatric disorders may be the underlying cause or partially the cause. Although most
behaviours are related to the environment that persons are exposed to during their developmental
years, some may be attributed to genetic disposition in which case, hostile-aggressive tendencies
often appear to be found in previous generations of a family tree. For example, a number of parents
who suffer from anxiety or depression come from homes where one or both of the parents may have
suffered from anxiety or depression as well. Those who exhibit severe hostile-aggressive-behaviour
and who seem unable to change their behaviours often suffer some form of mental or personality
disorder which is affecting their ability to deal with day to day matters on a rational level. Hostile-
Aggressive Parenting (HAP) can be one of the first signs of a person with a personality/psychiatric
Hostile-Aggressive behaviour as a court strategy
It is known in the legal community that if conflict exists in a family during separation or divorce
that the courts will often apply the misguided concept of awarding sole custody to one parent in
order to put the sole custodial parent “in control” over the children and, as it usually turns out,
control over the other parent as well.
Some parents have reported being encouraged by their solicitors to give lip service to any form of
mediation, to make unfounded allegations and generally maintain a high level of conflict prior to
going to court. Those in legal circles know that often the courts will grant sole custody, should
conflict exist prior to a court appearance. Calls to police and social services prior
to court are common-place as parents attempt to disadvantage and frustrate the other parent, often
forcing the other parent to call the authorities to seek help. This tactic is then used by the parent to
claim conflict and to insist that the court grant sole custody to them and that any form of joint
custody is unworkable. Unfortunately for the children, this strategy by the HAP parent often works,
with the result that the youngest, most defenceless children are then placed into the care of a parent
who exposes the children to a lifetime of hatred and revenge, a behaviour pattern which many
children end up learning and many carrying these behaviour into the next generation.