Factors discriminating among profiles of resilience and psychopathology in children exposed to intimate partner violence (IPV)

Sandra A Graham-Bermann, Gabrielle Gruber, Kathryn H Howell, Laura Girz
Child Abuse & Neglect 2009, 33 (9): 648-60

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the social and emotional adjustment of 219 children in families with varying levels of intimate partner violence (IPV) using a model of risk and protection. To explore factors that differentiate children with poor adjustment from those with resilience.

METHODOLOGY: Mothers who experienced IPV in the past year and their children ages 6-12 were interviewed. Standardized measures assessed family violence, parenting, family functioning, maternal mental health, and children's adjustment and beliefs.

RESULTS: Using cluster analysis, all cases with valid data on the Child Behavior Checklist, Child Depression Inventory, General Self-Worth and Social Self-Competence measures were described by four profiles of children's adjustment: Severe Adjustment Problems (24%); children who were Struggling (45%); those with Depression Only (11%); and Resilient (20%) with high competence and low adjustment problems. Multinomial logistic regression analyses showed children in the Severe Problems cluster witnessed more family violence and had mothers higher in depression and trauma symptoms than other children. Resilient and Struggling children had mothers with better parenting, more family strengths and no past violent partner. Parents of children with Severe Problems were lacking these attributes. The Depressed profile children witnessed less violence but had greater fears and worries about mother's safety.

CONCLUSION: Factors related to the child, to the mother and to the family distinguish different profiles of adjustment for children exposed to IPV who are living in the community. Resilient children have less violence exposure, fewer fears and worries, and mothers with better mental health and parenting skills, suggesting avenues for intervention with this population.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Findings suggest that child adjustment is largely influenced by parent functioning. Thus, services should be targeted at both the child and the parent. Clinical interventions shaped to the unique needs of the child might also be tested with this population.

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