The effects of intimate partner violence on women and child survivors: an attachment perspective

Alytia A Levendosky, Brittany Lannert, Matthew Yalch
Psychodynamic Psychiatry 2012, 40 (3): 397-433
Approximately 25% of women in the United States report having experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) in an adult relationship with a male partner. For affected women, IPV has been shown to increase the risk of psychopathology such as depression, anxiety, and symptoms of posttraumatic stress. Further, studies suggest that the risk of IPV (victimization or perpetration) may be carried intergenerationally, and children exposed to IPV are at a greater risk of both attachment insecurity and internalizing/externalizing problems. The authors employ an attachment perspective to describe how insecure/non-balanced working models of the relational self and others may be evoked by, elicit, or exacerbate maladaptive outcomes following experiences of IPV for mothers and their children. This article draws on both rich theory and empirical evidence in a discussion of attachment patterns in violent relationships, psychopathological outcomes for exposed women, disruptions in the caregiving relationship that may confer risk to children of exposed mothers, and the biological, social, and attachment risk factors for children exposed to IPV. A clinical case example is presented and discussed in the context of attachment theory.

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