Maternal intimate partner violence and behavioural problems among Pacific children living in New Zealand

Janis Paterson, Sarnia Carter, Wanzhen Gao, Esther Cowley-Malcolm, Leon Iusitini
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines 2008, 49 (4): 395-404

AIMS: To examine (1) the association between maternal intimate partner violence (IPV) perpetration and victimisation and behavioural problems among two- and four-year-old Pacific children, and (2) the socio-demographic and parenting factors that may impact on this association.

DESIGN: Mothers of the Pacific Islands Families (PIF) cohort of Pacific infants born in New Zealand during 2000 were interviewed when the children were two and four years of age. This data set was based on mothers who were cohabiting in married or de-facto partnerships (N = 920) and who completed measures of IPV at the two-year assessment point and the Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL) at the two-or four-year assessment points. Of these, 709 mothers completed the CBCL at both assessment points.

RESULTS: There were no significant associations between IPV and the prevalence rates of clinically relevant cases of behavioural problems in the two-year-old child cohort. However, the prevalence rates of clinically relevant internalising, externalising and total problem cases were significantly higher among four-year-old children of mothers who reported severe perpetration of IPV. The odds of being in clinical range of internalising were 2.16 times higher for children of mothers who were perpetrators of severe physical violence than for those children of mothers who were not, and for externalising and total problems they were 2.38 and 2.36 times higher respectively. Socio-demographic and parenting factors did not significantly influence the association between IPV and child behaviour problems.

CONCLUSION: These findings contribute to the complex picture of the consequences that exposure to parental violence may have on the behaviour of young children. The effectiveness of preventative strategies may be maximised if implemented in these early years before such problems become entrenched and lead on to future behavioural problems and impaired family relationships.

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