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Study Finds That Childhood Abuse Predicts Intimate Partner Violence Victimization

By Maria Lo Cascio, Ph.D. Psychology and Social Sciences at the University of Palermo

How to Deal With Trauma

Why is this topic important?

Intimate Partner Violence identifies acts or threats involving physical, sexual, psychological violence or stalking, carried out or received during a present or past intimate relationship. The prevalence data on Intimate Partner Victimization (IPV) of women highlight the social relevance of this global problem (WHO, 2013). Our knowledge needs to be improved in the field of the developmental conditions which can increase women’s vulnerability to engage in dysfunctional romantic relationships characterized by interpersonal violence. By determining whether childhood abuse predicts intimate partner violence victimization, a basis is set for formulating prevention and intervention measures.

In short, what is the aim of the study?

This study was aimed to examine the role of childhood maltreatments (antipathy, neglect, physical, sexual and psychological abuse and witnessing violence) and family and social dysfunctions (financial problems, poor social support, separation from parents and presence of parental psychological problems) in predicting IPV.  We wanted to assess if:

  1. Environmental dysfunctions are positively related to childhood maltreatment;
  2. Childhood maltreatment is positively related to adult IPV;
  3. The effects of environmental dysfunctions on IPV are mediated by childhood maltreatment.

What are the key findings from the study?

We used data from a sample of 78 Italian women (M = 34.45; SD = 10.76, range 18 – 55 years) split in two subgroups: IPV (38) and non-IPV (40) women. In order to carry out a thorough clinical evaluation, we use the Childhood Experience of Care and Abuse Interview, the Revised Conflict Tactics Scale questionnaire and the IPV History Interview.

We found that sexual and psychological abuse significantly predicted IPV and, with regards to the association between IPV and environmental dysfunctions, that poor social support significantly predicted IPV. The results of a mediation model showed that childhood psychological and sexual abuse, in association with each other, partially mediate the relationship between poor social support and IPV.

How are these findings important in practice?

IPV can have long-term consequences. We found among a sample of women, that sexual and psychological abuse were risk factors for IPV. In addition, poor social support may increase the likelihood of IPV. This results highlight the importance of a complex assessment for female victims of IPV in the context of prevention services including all kinds of childhood maltreatment which may have been simultaneously present in childhood; furthermore, there is the need to increase the availability of social support for children and families affected by relational and social deprivation. Supportive interventions may prevent victimization experiences both during childhood and adulthood.

What other studies can be recommended to further an understanding/application of the findings?We recommend future studies to investigate the role of environmental variables on the IPV antecedents. In addition, it is necessary that future research will deepen to what degree and how types of childhood abuse increase women’s vulnerability

We recommend future studies to investigate the role of environmental variables on the IPV antecedents. In addition, it is necessary that future research will deepen to what degree and how types of childhood abuse increase women’s vulnerability to IPV. The use of in-depth interviews to evaluate childhood maltreatment and IPV could facilitate the identification of the adverse childhood experiences who have predisposed the subjects to difficulties in intimate relationships such as IPV by helping clinicians to identify therapeutic approaches aimed to connect the traumatic memories that emerge from interviews with negative emotions associated with them.

External links

A link to the primary paper: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0886260517711176
A link to CECA website: http://cecainterview.com/index.htm

Links to the authors on Linkedin:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/maria-lo-cascio-7b791b72/
https://www.linkedin.com/in/cinziaguarnaccia/
https://it.linkedin.com/in/maria-rita-infurna-51a791bb
https://it.linkedin.com/in/laura-mancuso-bb714a19/
https://it.linkedin.com/in/anna-maria-parroco-67a4b6a8
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Francesca_Giannone2

About Maria Lo Cascio, Ph.D. Psychology and Social Science, University of Palermo

Alternative Text

Maria Lo Cascio is a Psychologist, Ph. D. in Psychology and Social Science at the Department of Psychological, Pedagogical and Educational Sciences, University of Palermo, Italy. Her scholarly work focuses on the long-term social and health effects of childhood maltreatment with a specific interest in the role of the adverse childhood experiences in predicting Intimate Partner Violence in adulthood. The work of the Research Group on Psychopathological Outcomes of Adverse Childhood Experiences focuses on the long-term social and health effects of childhood maltreatment with an emphasis on the role of the adverse childhood experiences in predicting mental health disorders, intimate partner violence in adulthood and poor parenting. Other research and clinical interests concern group psychotherapy, therapeutic communities for adults and for children and young people.

Maria Lo Cascio on the Web
More on: Research, Trauma
Latest update: August 16, 2017