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Effects of Early Exposure and Lifetime Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) on Child Adjustment

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Children exposed to overwhelming and potentially traumatic events early in their lives are considered at-risk for problems in adjustment. Yet it is not known whether it is the age of first exposure (AFE) to violence or the amount of violence that the child witnessed in their lifetime that has the greatest impact on adjustment. For a sample of 190 children ages 6 to 12 exposed to intimate partner violence, their mothers reported that the average length of their abusive relationship was 10 years. The majority of children were first exposed to family violence as infants (64%), with only 12% first exposed when school-aged. Both the AFE and an estimate of the cumulative amount of violence were significantly and negatively related to children's behavioral problems. However, in regression analyses controlling for child sex, ethnicity, age, and family environment variables, cumulative violence exposure accounted for greater variance in adjustment than did AFE. Furthermore, cumulative violence exposure mediated the relationship between AFE and externalizing behavior problems, indicating that the cumulative exposure to IPV outweighed the AFE in its effect on child adjustment.
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Keywords: CHILD ADJUSTMENT; DOMESTIC VIOLENCE; EXTERNALIZING PROBLEMS; INTERNALIZING PROBLEMS; VIOLENCE EXPOSURE

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2010

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