Contribution of family violence to the intergenerational transmission of externalizing behavior

Miriam K Ehrensaft, Patricia Cohen
Prevention Science: the Official Journal of the Society for Prevention Research 2012, 13 (4): 370-83
Research finds that early antisocial behavior is a risk for later intimate partner violence (IPV) perpetration and victimization, and that children's exposure to their parents' IPV is a risk for subsequent behavior problems. This study tests whether intimate violence (IPV) between partners contributes independently to the intergenerational transmission of antisocial behavior, using the Children in the Community Study, a representative sample (N = 821) followed for over 25 years in 6 assessments. The present study includes a subsample of parents (N = 678) and their offspring (N = 396). We test the role of three mechanisms by which IPV may influence child antisocial behavior-parental psychopathology, parenting practices, and child self-regulation. Results suggest that IPV independently increased the risk for offspring externalizing problems, net of the effects of parental history of antisocial behavior and family violence. IPV also increased the risk for parental post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol use disorder 2 years later, but not for major depressive disorder. Alcohol use disorder independently increased the risk for offspring externalizing behavior, but IPV continued to predict offspring externalizing net of parental alcohol use. Parenting, particularly low satisfaction with the child, was significantly associated with both IPV and externalizing behavior, but did not mediate the effects of IPV on externalizing. IPV predicted higher levels of emotional expressivity, aggression and hostile reactivity, and depressive mood in offspring. Implications for future research and prevention are discussed.

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