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Long-Term Psychological Consequences in Women of Witnessing Parental Physical Conflict and Experiencing Abuse in Childhood

NCJ Number
Journal of Interpersonal Violence Volume: 13 Issue: 5 Dated: October 1998 Pages: 574-589
A H Maker; M Kemmelmeier; C Peterson
Date Published
16 pages
This study built on previous investigations of the long-term psychological outcomes of being a child witness of marital violence and addressed some of their shortcomings regarding comorbid childhood stressors.
The study used a multi-risk model to include and control risk factors that often coexist in violent homes (physical abuse, sexual abuse, and parental chemical dependency). Questionnaires were completed by 131 college women to assess childhood risk factors and current symptoms. Researchers compared witnesses and nonwitnesses of parental violence on presenting symptoms of depression, trauma symptoms, suicidality, antisocial behaviors, and violence in adult dating relationships. A nonclinical sample was studied to enhance the generalizability of the results. Findings show that witnesses of marital violence experienced more sexual and physical abuse as well as more parental substance use in childhood than did nonwitnesses, and there was more violence in their own dating relationships, even after controlling for other risk factors. Depression, trauma symptoms, antisocial behaviors, and suicidal behaviors were related to childhood experiences of sexual and physical abuse. The need for future research to examine multiple childhood stressors simultaneously is discussed. 3 tables and 32 references