There are relatively few studies exploring how partner violence is transmitted from generation to generation. Social learning theory suggests mediating processes that are involved in the intergenerational transmission of violence. One possible mechanism is the development of antisocial behavior in adolescents who come from an aggressive family of origin which then leads to later aggression in intimate relationships. However, few studies have examined this and most were retrospective. This prospective study tests the hypothesis that the association between exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV) in early adolescence and engaging in IPV in young adulthood is mediated by antisocial behavior in late adolescence.
Data for this paper are from the Rochester Youth Development Study (RYDS), a longitudinal investigation of the development of delinquent behaviors in a representative community sample of 1,000 urban youth followed from age 13 to adulthood. Well-validated measures come from a combination of interviews with parents (G1), youth (G2), and official records. The Conflict Tactics Scale is used to assess IPV. Measures of IPV are gathered from adult caretakers when subjects are aged 14 to 17. IPV in G2's own intimate relationships comes from the CTS administered when they were young adults between the ages of 21 and 23. CTS scales used include the prevalence of any physical violence or severe violence. Self-reported violent offending, and drug use, and official arrest were used to measure antisocial behavior. Multivariate analyses control for gender, race/ethnicity, parent education, family stability, and poverty.
Rates of IPV were higher among G2 young adults than among their G1 caregivers. While 62% of G2 respondents reported any IPV and 41% reported severe IPV, only 39% of G1 respondents reported any IPV and 21% reported severe IPV. Results of logistic regression indicated that having a history of exposure to any G1 IPV did not predict partner violence for G2. However, evidence of intergenerational transmission for severe IPV was found: G2s who experienced G1 severe IPV were more likely to be involved in severe IPV in young adulthood than those without such a history (OR=2.3, p<.01). Exposure to G1 IPV did not predict drug use or official arrest in adolescence for G2 but did predict violent offending. Specifically, G2 violent offending in adolescence was predicted by exposure to G1 severe IPV (OR=1.6, p<.05) and in turn predicted G2 severe IPV (OR=2.1, p<.001). Finally, adding violent offending to the model reduced both the magnitude and the significance level of the relationship between G1 severe IPV and G2 severe IPV (OR=1.9, p<.05). Thus, the effect of exposure to severe IPV on G2 severe IPV in early adulthood was partially mediated by violent offending in adolescence.
Statistical tests showed that antisocial behavior in late adolescence is a mediator between early adolescent exposure to partner violence and engaging in partner violence in early adulthood. The design of preventive interventions for early antisocial behaviors may have benefits in reducing adult IPV and help to break the intergenerational continuity of partner violence.