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The purpose of this study is to examine the negative affects of aggressive parenting on the social, emotional, and cognitive development of children across cultures and socioeconomic status. Multiple relevant and current disciplinary journals will be reviewed for the purpose of this study. Studies have shown that the effects of harsh and aggressive parenting can cause problematic behavioral issues in children. In this literature review, the focus will be directed toward the specific developmental factors being affected by aggressive parenting styles. The increase in aggressive behavior of children and of the parents will also be considered. The effects of stress, socioeconomic status, and cultural background on parenting styles will be examined for causation of aggressive parenting which leads to antisocial behavior in children. Finally, the view of long-term effects and psychopathology in adults who were raised in an environment where parenting was harsh and aggressive will be discussed. Studies have shown that harsh parenting can lead to difficulties in school, work, and self-reliant success. Self-efficacy and motivation can be stifled by a non-nurturing parenting style, which leads to
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The International Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities Invention
Volume 3 issue 9 2016 page no. 2729-2734 ISSN: 2349-2031
Available Online At: http://valleyinternational.net/index.php/our-jou/theijsshi
How does Aggressive Parenting Affect Child Development and
Personality? A Systematic Review
Shatha Jamil Khusaifan1 Yaser Abdel Azim Samak2
1King Abdulaziz University, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, P.O. Box 42803,
Jeddah 21551, Saudi Arabia
2Faculty of Arts, Department of Geography and GIS, Assiut University, Old University Building, M.B,
71515, Assiut, Egypt
Abstract: The purpose of this study is to examine the negative affects of aggressive parenting on the
social, emotional, and cognitive development of children across cultures and socioeconomic status.
Multiple relevant and current disciplinary journals will be reviewed for the purpose of this study.
Studies have shown that the effects of harsh and aggressive parenting can cause problematic
behavioral issues in children. In this literature review, the focus will be directed toward the specific
developmental factors being affected by aggressive parenting styles. The increase in aggressive behavior
of children and of the parents will also be considered. The effects of stress, socioeconomic status, and
cultural background on parenting styles will be examined for causation of aggressive parenting which
leads to antisocial behavior in children. Finally, the view of long-term effects and psychopathology in
adults who were raised in an environment where parenting was harsh and aggressive will be discussed.
Studies have shown that harsh parenting can lead to difficulties in school, work, and self-reliant
success. Self-efficacy and motivation can be stifled by a non-nurturing parenting style, which leads to
complications in social and emotional interaction in adulthood.
Keywords: Aggressive parenting, harsh parenting, children’s anti-social behavior
1. Introduction
Family environments saturated with behavioral
patterns of rejection, coldness, and non-
acceptance foster maladjustment in children and
adults. This pattern will lead to internalizing and
externalizing negative emotions and behaviors.
Studies have shown that parental acceptance and
warmth is related to empathy and pro-social
behaviors in children and young adults (Kiff,
Lengua, & Zalewski, 2011). The notion that
children become dependent in the interpersonal
interaction of their birth parents in a reward
dependent system has been evolving since the
1980’s. We see this idea discussed and evaluated
by popular theorists such as Erickson and
Cloninger. Though the biological predisposition of
a child plays a role in the re-activity of the parent,
studies have shown that a parent who perceives
their child to be generally pleasant and maintains
a nurturing disposition in spite of a difficult infant
will see positive results by the time the child is
two years old. In these parenting situations, the
child learns to trust the positive regard of the
caregiver and will continuously develop
confidence into the toddler stage. When a parent
perceives the infant to be difficult and generally
unpleasant, their reaction can be harsh verbal or
physical punishment and sometimes neglect and
isolation. In this type of parenting situation, the
child becomes anxious, never knowing what to
expect from the parent. When the child develops
into the toddler stage, they have nurtured this
anxious behavior which has caused them to act
out in self defense. When children in these
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situations act out negatively, it can elicit harsh
parenting and corporal punishment (Hajal,
Neiderhiser, Moore, et al., 2015). This type of
disorganized attachment can cause negative short
and long-term effects in both parent and child.
The result of chaotic interaction between parent
and child, usually when the child is being abused,
can be impaired neural and cognitive functioning,
which can cause academic failure, difficulty
regulating emotions, and a tendency toward
interpersonal violence (Siegel & Hartzell, 2014).
Purpose: The purpose of this research is to
acquire a comprehensive understanding of various
factors influencing parenting patterns, with
particular focus on harsh parenting and its
influence on the behavioral pattern of children.
The literature also includes the study of
differential impacts, if any, based on the gender of
parents and children, as well as a family’s social,
economic and cultural backgrounds.
Method
The databases that were used to search eligible
studies are as follows: NCBI, EBSCO and
ProQuest. In each database, the same keywords
were used but were modified according to the type
of database. I found 4350 articles from SAGE,
84943 from EBSCO, 311844 from ScienceDirect,
55 references list, and 8864 from ProQuest . The
search strategy included the following keywords:
harsh parenting, impact on children, parent-child
relationship, parenting behavior, parent child
psychopathology, parental discipline and
intervention programs. Many duplicate articles
were found and 35562 such articles were
excluded, in addition to 3675 articles that were
based on underage parents or parents who were
not primary caretakers of children. Almost 24501
irrelevant articles were also excluded, which were
expert opinions from child psychiatrists or
commentaries. All the articles that have been used
for this paper are relevant to the research topic.
Since the topic has been subjected to innumerous
studies, therefore it was not difficult to find
appropriate articles for this paper. Two articles and
one thesis were unobtainable. Based on the
Critical Appraisal Skills Program (CASP), quality
assessment criteria were formed to study the
methodologies and study patterns of each article.
The articles were also verified by a second
independent reviewer. After quality assessment,
58 articles were excluded, as only high to
moderate quality studies were included, and so the
final list consists of 63 articles (Fig 1).
Fig 1: Flowchart of study selection process and
search results.
2. Harsh Parenting Affects Self Efficacy and
Motivation
Self differentiation starts as a personal process and
progresses into the transformation of relationships
in the entire family system (Becvar & Becvar,
2013). The idea of human nature behind the
cognitive-behavioral aspect is that we have all
created a way of thinking about the environment
that dictates the way we behave in any given
situation. We are not motivated by our instinctive
drives, but, rather, by the cognitive constructs we
have developed due to our experiences; we are all
rational beings and authors of our own stories
(Schultz & Schultz, 2008). Defense mechanisms
have long been considered a process of
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adaptation. These mechanisms can be
unconscious, non-intentional, hierarchical, and
associated with pathology. There can be immature
and mature versions which are seen in individuals
of all ages. In children, defense mechanisms are
arranged developmentally, with immature
defenses appearing first, and in adulthood, they
are arranged hierarchically, with the most adaptive
or mature appearing first (Cramer, 2000).
3. Psychopathology and Developmental Factors
Affected by Harsh Parenting
The view of psychopathology has to do with what
kind of affect an individual’s thoughts are having
on their ability to be fully functional on a daily
basis (Sherman, Blevins, Kirchner, Ridener, &
Jackson, 2008). A person able to function on a
normal to high level, including healthy
interpersonal interaction, good performance at
work, and the ability to maintain moderate health
levels, is considered to be congruent.
Psychopathology is a progression, not a state
which appears without warning from one moment
to the next. The congruent individual does not
depend on positive regard and is free to spend
their lives self actualizing or living up to what
they consider to be their highest level of potential
self (Vetere, 2001). Psychopathology is seen as
incongruence, which causes the individual to
embark on an exhausting quest for positive regard
throughout their lives (Corey, 2013). Individuals
who are constantly seeking positive regard are
forced to live lives that are not true to themselves,
in order to gain the approval of others; they are
always on the defensive and cannot be open to all
experiences. These individuals will usually have
self-destructive tendencies, anxiety, panic, and
depression. Because their lives are not at a fully
functioning status and their authenticity is under
constant threat, their state becomes neurotic and
anxious. Eventually, the defense mechanisms they
developed early on in life that worked in the
beginning will no longer work, functioning
becomes unpredictable, and they become
psychologically vulnerable (Schultz & Schultz,
2008).
In Western society, family violence is an area that
can be overlooked, depending on the situation and
the culture. In many cultures, certain things are
considered to be abuse, where another culture
would typically see that same sort of treatment as
normal because of what they were raised to
believe. The tolerance of abuse tends to be taught
in families from generation to generation, which
makes it a familial norm, though, according to
research, this does not change the adverse affects
of harsh or abusive parenting. Children raised in
these conditions still struggle to meet societal
norms or flourish on their own in society
(McGoldrick, Carter, & Garcia-Preto, 2011).
Research has shown that a child’s family
environment, along with other biological
predisposition, plays a major role in the
appearance of ADD/ADHD symptomology. In
some cases, a child is diagnosed with ADD at an
early age as part of biological predisposition,
while in other cases a child is diagnosed with the
disorder in direct correlation to a high-risk or
unstable family environment (Johnston & Mash,
2001). Furthermore, there have been reviews
which suggested that with or without medication,
parent training programs reduced symptoms of
ADHD in children, which suggests that a change
in parenting styles can prevent, reduce, or
eliminate the symptoms and progression of the
diagnosis (Kaslow, Broth, Smith, & Collins,
2012).
4. Defense Mechanisms Related to Anxiety and
SES
Anxiety is not simply an isolated event or
something that can be guarded against in a parent
and child relationship. Research shows that when
the caregiver is experiencing high levels of
anxiety, they are not as able to offer a nurturing
relationship to their child. Major sources of
anxiety include: financial instability, low
socioeconomic status, marital discord, and chronic
health issues. When one or several of these factors
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are present in an individual’s life, the levels of
stress become increasingly problematic. Adults
with elevated levels of stress due to these
concerns struggle in their ability to parent a
problematic or difficult child in a way that is not
harsh, aggressive, or cold (Collins & Arthur,
2007). When a child experiences anxiety and is
unable to deal with it on their own due to an
aggressive upbringing, they will default to a fight
or flight response. This type of response can
manifest in physical outbursts, screaming, self
harm, or self-isolation. The same anxious
reactions occur when there is a threat to self-
esteem, and they have adapted to these situations
by using defense mechanisms to defend against
these threats (Schultz & Schultz, 2008). Defense
mechanisms work to control moments and
feelings of anxiety, and, since anxiety is related to
fear, a pattern of reactions is created that will
occur whenever this fear returns. In adults, an
immature defense mechanism falls low on the
hierarchical order and is considered to be action or
acting out and expressing behaviors, not limited to
apathy, withdrawal, and passive aggression.
Immature defense mechanisms in adulthood
manifest as poor coping mechanisms. Adults who
were abused as children but were not able to face
the experience will continue the same pattern of
abuse in their own children. Without the proper
nurturing environment, adults will rely on the
abuse of substances, alcohol, erratic behavior, and
self destruction as a way of coping with anxiety
(Cramer, 2000).
5. Factors Influencing Parenting Behaviour
Wharton & Mandell (1985) have focused on the
impact of violence portrayed on television on
parental aggressiveness. The authors have studied
the reports of two cases where children were
admitted in emergency rooms due to inflicted
violence by their parents immediately after
broadcast of a film depicting a single mother
suffocating her child.
The purpose of this article is to discuss the
external factors that influence the behavioral
patterns of parents. Researchers have established a
connection between cultural background of
parents and their attitude toward children (Ortega,
2000). Based on a questionnaire distributed to 54
low-income mothers from various cultural
backgrounds, it was concluded that mothers with
high cultural connections exhibit less
aggressiveness toward their children than their
counterparts who have low cultural connections.
In another study, it was concluded that the impact
of harsh parenting differs according to cultural
and ethnic groups. Dodge (2001) has observed
that children from white families show more
aggressiveness than children from African-
American families, considering that both groups
have experienced harsh treatment from their
parents. However, it was also seen that extreme
harsh behavior with children, including strict
physical discipline, has the same level of negative
impacts on children, irrespective of their cultural
backgrounds. In the context of racial background,
Lee (2013) has concluded that adolescent
motherhood gives rise to harsh parenting,
although its impact on parental practices differs
according to race and ethnicity.
In another study, Yaman et al. (2010) have
explored the difference between the levels of
influence of marital problems and parental distress
on the conduct levels of children in Dutch and
second-generation Turkish migrant families. It
was observed that the results were same for both
groups.
It is also suggested that parental behavior and
children’s characteristics are mutually influential,
as observed by Simons et al. (1994), based on
their study of 207 divorced women and their
children. While single mothers can impact
externalizing of boys and girls, and internalizing
of boys, non-residential fathers can influence
externalizing of both genders. On the other hand,
externalizing problems in children can reduce
parental involvement of both parents. In a similar
context, Erath et al. (2009) have studied 251
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children of eight and nine years old. The authors
have concluded that harsh parenting can increase
externalizing problems more for children with
lower skin conductance level reactivity (SCLR)
than children with higher SCLR.
It has also been observed that characteristics of
parents can induce harsh parenting, for example,
parents who are less skilled in conducting
executive functions display less tolerance level for
tantrum throwing children compared to more
skilled parents (Deater-Deckard et al., 2012). In a
particular study of 368 mothers, Pinderhughes et
al. (2001) have found that parental warmth and
consistent discipline are influenced by race and
ethnicity. For instance, they concluded parental
warmth is more evident among European
American parents than African American parents,
and also, the latter display less consistent
discipline with their children. Such results have,
however, been contradicted by Amato and Fowler
(2002), who have studied two groups of parents
one group having children between 5 and 11
years, and another group having adolescent
children between 12 and 18 years. The authors
have found that there is no association between
cultural, racial and economic variations and
parenting practices.
The impact of incarceration on harsh parenting
has been studied by Mustaine and Tewksbury
(2015), and it was concluded that incarceration
separately has no influence, since fathers’ parental
practices depend on factors like scope of
interaction with their children, and such scope is
defined by many elements, like marital status and
economic status, among which incarceration is
one element.
6. Parental Psychopathology and Parental
Practices
Studies have been conducted to learn the impact
of different types of parental psychopathology on
children’s behavioral patterns (Harvey et al., 2011;
Psychogiou et al., 2008). In response to
questionnaires given to 182 mothers and 126
fathers, all of whom had preschool children with
behavioral problems, it was concluded that
negative traits like depression, substance abuse,
anxiety, and so on in parents can induce them to
behave in a less responsible manner with their
children (Harvey et al., 2011). In addition, it was
observed that marital status has no impact on the
association between parental psychopathology and
their attitude toward their children. Psychogiou et
al. (2008) have found that parental
psychopathology is reflected in reduced empathy
toward their children and increased egoistic
attitude. In another study, Stokes et al. (2011)
have argued that there is less severe impact of
parental depression on parent-child discrepancies.
The impact of parental psychopathology on the
effects of parent management training (PMT) has
been studied by Maliken and Katz (2013). The
authors have reviewed different research articles
based on this relationship between parental
psychopathology and PMT. Based on the
assessment of 70 parents from a control group and
72 parents from an experimental group, Li et al.
(2013) have concluded that parents in the
experimental group were less severe on their
children, resulting in establishing a more positive
relationship with their children compared to their
counterparts from the control group.
Knerr et al. (2013) have studied random trials
based on parents and primary caretakers of
children up to the age of 18 years. The authors
have concluded that parental intervention
programs have a positive effect on parental
practices and can reduce child maltreatment in
low and middle-income countries. According to
Jansen et al. (2012), intervention programs should
be initiated in early childhood or even before
birth, and especially for socially and
psychologically disadvantaged families.
Based on research on 70 fourth grade students,
Caron et al. (2006) have studied the controlling
power of parents and its impact on the behavioral
patterns of children. Parents who indulge in more
controlling power have children with internal
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behavioral problems, and this is more evident
when the parents’ warmth level is low. In another
context, it is assumed that aggressive behavior of
G2 parents is a result of their experience as
children from G1 parents. Conger et al. (2003)
have studied 75 youth along with their parents and
children to conclude aggressive parenthood gets
transmitted from G1 parents to G2 parents.
However, one limitation of this study was that it
did not consider the social and economic
backgrounds of the participants.
Parental mentalization is a factor, which, if
disturbed, can reduce the mentalization capacity in
children. This can result in long-term emotional
problems in children (Sharp & Fonagy, 2008).
Another study focused on depressed and non-
depressed mothers (Kohl et al., 2011). The authors
have concluded that a harsh attitude was displayed
equally by both groups, but a neglectful attitude
and emotional abuse are more evident in
depressed mothers than their non-depressed
counterparts.
Mackenbach et al. (2014) have focused on a mild
degree of harsh parenting to conclude that it
adversely affects the behavioral and emotional
patterns of children, and the level of impact is
indistinguishable in the case of paternal or
maternal harsh discipline. A study conducted on
807 Chinese adolescents revealed that fathers are
perceived as less concerned and more disciplined
than mothers (Shek, 2000).
7. Influence on the Behavioral Patterns of
Children
Gavita and Joyce (2008) have explored the
influence of parenting intervention programs on
the level of conduct problems in children. The
authors have studied both English and non-
English articles based on controlled and quasi-
randomized trials that have included parenting
intervention programs having parents with
disturbed characteristics. It was concluded that
such programs have the significant effect of
reducing the stress levels of both parents and
children, and the effect remains consistent, even
after three years of the program. This result has
also been substantiated by Thomas and Zimmer-
Gembeck (2007), after studying meta-analysis
results between 1980 and 2004.
Pederson and Fite (2014) have found that parental
intervention has a significant influence on the
association between the aggressiveness of children
and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). After
studying 89 children between 9 to 12 years and
their primary caregivers, the authors have
concluded that consistent discipline implemented
by parents can discourage children from behaving
in a defiant manner, thus reducing the association
between aggressiveness and ODD. A similar study
was conducted on 68 Chinese children and their
parents (Chen et al., 2001). This study revealed
that the characteristics of children are also an
influential factor on the impact of parental
behavior toward their children. It was observed
that while maternal warmth can reduce
aggressiveness in obedient children, paternal
control has more impact on defiant children.
Evans et al. (2012) have observed 199 mothers
and their perspectives regarding their children’s
aggressiveness and shyness. Mothers who show a
high level of confidence in dealing with their
aggressive or shy children can influence their
aggressive level, though not their shyness. Xu et
al. (2009) have studied 401 children to learn that
aggression in children increases, the higher the
level of harsh parenting, although aggression can
be controlled by efforts taken by children.
The impact of harsh parenting on children was
studied by Whelan et al. (2014), and they have
concluded that harsh parenting can induce
children, especially boys, to become victims of
bullying. The impact of harsh parenting on
deviant peer affiliation among adolescents has
been studied by Li et al. (2015), who have
concluded that harsh parenting can develop
deviant peer affiliation among adolescents and is
further differentiated by genetic or non-genetic
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factors. Waller et al. (2012) have concluded that
harsh parenting induces deceitful-callous behavior
in early childhood, although the impact is diluted
in the long term, even if the behavior is sustained.
In a similar study, McKee et al. (2007) have
observed 2,582 parents, to conclude that parents
use more harsh discipline and physical power on
boys than girls, and fathers exert more physical
power. Such parenting can cause negative
behavioral patterns in children, irrespective of
their gender. In the context of harsh discipline and
permissive discipline, Parent et al. (2011) have
studied 160 parents with potentially disruptive
children. It was concluded that while harsh
discipline adversely affects both genders,
permissive discipline adversely affects only boys.
Therefore, the authors have suggested that
parental training programs can benefit children of
either gender by teaching parental guidance to
their parents.
The ability of children to establish relationships
with their social circle has been studied in the
context of parenting behaviors. In this study,
Goraya and Kazim (2012) have observed that
harsh parenting can reduce the social skills of
children, while positive parenting can increase
their social skills. Lack of social skills itself can
be a negative predictor of children’s behavior,
irrespective of parenting practices (Goraya &
Shamama-tus-Sabah, 2013).
In the context of corporal punishment, Simons et
al. (1994) have found that it is the degree of
parental involvement associated with such
punishment that influences behavioral outcomes
in children rather than corporal punishment alone.
In another study of parental gender, Chang et al.
(2003) concluded that maternal parenting affects
emotional outcomes of children, while paternal
parenting affects aggressiveness in children.
Moreover, fathers have more influence on sons
than daughters, while there is no such
differentiation in the case of mothers. Further, the
influence of negative parenting on children’s
depression level induced by physical punishment
has been proved positive by Callender et al.
(2012).
8. Impact of Parental Stress and Anxiety
It is a given fact that raising children can be a
cumbersome task for many parents, especially
those with other problems like divorce or
suffering from mental problems like anxiety and
depression. Research on 430 children with and
without externalizing behavior problems has
revealed that various factors like divorced parents,
maternal psychopathology, and also aggressive
children, can increase parenting stress (Williford
et al., 2007). Moreover, anxiety among parents
has a positive relationship with anxiety and
depression level in children but has no effect on
their externalizing problems, as concluded by
Burstein et al. (2010), after they had studied 48
anxiety-ridden parents and 49 parents not
suffering from anxiety. They have further
observed that anxiety in parents has an adverse
impact on their relationship with their children. In
the case of adoptive fathers and birth mothers, it
has been seen that the higher the level of
aggressiveness in the former, the higher is the
negative parenting from the latter (Hajal et al.,
2015). El-Sheikh and Elmore-Staton (2004) have
concluded that conflict between parents and
children can abate the adverse impact of marital
conflict of parents on children. Again, positive
parent-child relationship can reduce behavioral
problems in children, which is linked with marital
conflict. Mustillo et al. (2011) have found that
parental depression can cause neglectful behavior,
causing negative outcomes on children below
adolescence. However, depression does not imply
increased physical abuse for any age of children.
Bender et al. (2007) have studied adolescents of
16 years to conclude that harsh parenting can
develop depression and greater externalizing
behavior in them. The authors have further
observed that maternal harshness, which is caused
by parenting tension and family problems (Pereira
et al., 2015) discourages adolescents to maintain
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warm interactions with them. The positive
relationship between parenting stress and
disruptive behavior in children has also been
supported by Barry et al. (2005). In another study
by Maljaars et al. (2013) on two groups of
mothers having children with and without autism,
it was revealed that the former group used less
discipline on their children than the latter group.
9. Conclusion
These findings emphasize several aspects of
parenting and its impact on the behavioral patterns
of children, and also the influence of children’s
perception of parenting on parental stress and
anxiety. In sum, from the findings in the above
chosen set of literature, it can be assumed that
children’s aggression, shyness or feelings of
confidence correspond to the challenges that
parents feel regarding their approach and attitude
toward children. The cultural impact on parenting
styles has been explored and it is evident from the
findings that cultural backgrounds definitely play
a role in a child’s upbringing. This has, however,
been contradicted by Amato and Fowler (2002),
and this emphasizes the fact that more cross-
sectional studies are needed to obtain more
confirmed results.
One interesting finding has revealed that parenting
styles can be hereditary, as observed by Conger et
al. (2003), by the fact that parents tend to give the
same kind of treatment to their children that they
received from their own parents. This brings to the
fore the observation that any adverse impact of
parenting on one generation is hardly taken into
consideration when it is the turn of this generation
to become parents.
The impact of parental training programs has been
another element in this study, and it has been
comprehensively proved that such programs have
a positive impact on parent-child relationships, as
well as on the behavioral patterns of children,
irrespective of gender. Moreover, although
parental attitude may vary according to the gender
of the child, the impact is not gender related, as
has been proven by McKee et al. (2007).
One important fact has been found by El-Sheikh
and Elmore-Staton (2004), that the impacts of
parents’ marital conflicts on children become
diluted if the parent-child relationship is in
conflict.
The number of studies regarding the topic of
parenting styles and their impact on children’s
emotional behavior is huge, and this current paper
has focused on a few of them. Therefore, it is not
possible to provide an exhaustive review of this
issue, as further studies are required. However, an
important fact that can be concluded from the
findings here is that while parental attitudes can
positively or negative affect a child’s behavior, the
reverse is also true, i.e. the attitude of children can
influence the impact of parenting (Chen et al.,
2001).
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The authors declared no potential conflicts of
interest with respect to the research, authorship,
and/or publication of this article.
Acknowledgments
This project was funded by the Deanship of
Scientific Research (DSR), King Abdulaziz
University, Jeddah (Grant No: //). The
authors, therefore, acknowledge with thanks DSR
technical and financial support.
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