Some people are caught in a cycle of violence, perhaps beginning with their own abuse as a child and continuing into perpetration or victimization as an adult. To interrupt this cycle, it is important to understand how childhood experiences are related to behavior later in life.
In a paper published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers examined how forms of child maltreatment victimization and youth violence and young adult intimate partner violence (IPV) perpetration or victimization are interrelated.
This study analyzed data from more than 9,300 respondents of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Respondents were asked about youth violence perpetration and victimization during Wave I of the study in 1994-1995, and were subsequently asked about IPV perpetration and victimization in young adult sexual relationships in Wave III of the study (2001-2002). Questions in Wave III assessed whether the respondent suffered physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect as a child. To evaluate IPV in young adults, this study was restricted to those respondents who reported at least one sexual relationship in the two years preceding Wave III. In addition, demographic and environmental variables were collected, such as parent education, employment status, school enrollment, and the county crime rate, among others. Youth violence was defined as fighting, hurting someone badly enough to need care, threatening to use a weapon, using a weapon, and shooting or stabbing someone. Intimate partner violence was defined as threatening a partner with violence; pushing, shoving, or throwing something at a partner; slapping, hitting, or kicking a partner; or insisting or making a partner have sexual relations when he or she did not want to do so.
The authors examined two relationships: the relationship among child maltreatment, youth violence perpetration, and IPV perpetration (perpetration link), and the relationship between child maltreatment, youth violence victimization, and IPV victimization (victimization link).
Depending on the specific type of child maltreatment experienced, compared to nonvictims, victims were more likely to perpetrate youth violence (up to 6.6% for females and 11.9% for males) and young adult IPV (up to 10.4% for females and 17.2% for males). Gender differences exist in the links between child maltreatment, youth violence and IPV. For instance, the link between IPV perpetration and child maltreatment in the forms of physical abuse and neglect was stronger in females. The link between child sexual abuse and future IPV perpetration was significant for males but not for females. Gender differences also exist in the effects of socioeconomic factors on youth violence and IPV.
Writing in the article, the study authors note that victims of child maltreatment are more likely to perpetrate youth violence and IPV in the future and that there was less of an effect of child maltreatment on future victimization of youth violence or IPV. The authors state that these findings reinforce the commonly held views that preventing child maltreatment may be key to preventing future perpetration of youth violence, and that interventions targeting youth violence may also serve to prevent later IPV perpetration or concurrent dating violence.