The Role of Adolescent Physical Abuse in Adult Intimate Partner Violence

This study’s primary aims were to examine whether a sample of young adults, aged 23 to 31, who had been documented as physically abused by their parent(s) during adolescence would be more likely to aggress, both physically and verbally, against their intimate partners compared with nonabused young adults and whether abuse history was (along with other risk factors) a significant predictor of intimate partner physical and emotional violence perpetration or victimization. In this longitudinal study, 67 abused and 78 nonabused adults (of an original sample of 198 adolescents) completed the Modified Conflict Tactics Scale and the Jealousy and Emotional Control Scales. Nonabused comparison adolescents were matched for age, gender, and community income. As adults, participants with abuse histories had significantly higher rates of intimate partner physical violence and verbal aggression than did comparison participants. Multivariate logistic regressions indicated that adults with histories of physical abuse were more than twice as likely to be physically violent and almost six times more likely to be verbally aggressive to their intimate partners than were comparison participants. Having had an alcohol use disorder, being married to or living with a partner, and perceiving one’s partner as controlling were also significantly associated with physical violence. Jealousy and feeling controlled by one’s partner were also significant predictors of verbal aggression. These findings underscore the importance of preventing adolescent abuse as a means of decreasing the incidence of intimate partner physical violence in adulthood.

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