LETTER

Children's adjustment problems in families characterized by men's severe violence toward women: does other family violence matter?

Renee McDonald, Ernest N Jouriles, Candyce D Tart, Laura C Minze
Child Abuse & Neglect 2009, 33 (2): 94-101
19303141

OBJECTIVE: This research examined whether additional forms of family violence (partner-child aggression, mother-child aggression, and women's intimate partner violence [IPV]) contribute to children's adjustment problems in families characterized by men's severe violence toward women.

METHODS: Participants were 258 children and their mothers recruited from domestic violence shelters. Mothers and children completed measures of men's IPV, women's IPV, partner-child aggression, and mother-child aggression. Mothers provided reports of children's internalizing and externalizing behavior problems; children provided reports of their appraisals of threat in relation to interparent conflict.

RESULTS: After controlling for sociodemographics and men's IPV: (1) each of the additional forms of family violence (partner-child aggression, mother-child aggression, and women's IPV) was associated with children's externalizing problems; (2) partner-child aggression was associated with internalizing problems; and (3) partner-child aggression was associated with children's threat appraisals. The relation of mother-child aggression to externalizing problems was stronger for boys than for girls; gender differences were not observed for internalizing problems or threat appraisals.

CONCLUSIONS: Men's severe IPV seldom occurs in the absence of other forms of family violence, and these other forms appear to contribute to children's adjustment problems. Parent-child aggression, and partner-child aggression in particular, are especially important. Systematic efforts to identify shelter children who are victims of parental violence seem warranted.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Men's severe IPV seldom occurs in the absence of other forms of family violence (partner-child aggression, mother-child aggression, and women's IPV), and these different forms of family violence all contribute to children's adjustment problems. Treatment programs for children who come to domestic violence shelters should address these different forms of family violence, especially parent-child aggression.

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