Methods: The participants were part of a longitudinal study that examined the lives of women who had experienced IPV, as well as the children's lives. One-hundred and sixty families were recruited from three community-based sites that served IPV survivors; both the mothers and children were interviewed six times over two years. One hundred children (39% female) were age 8 or older and able to complete the full battery of scales; this group of older children comprises the current sample (M = 9.90, SD = 1.48). Children were interviewed about their experiences with witnessing IPV (Child Report of Witnessing IPV), community violence (modified Things I Have Seen and Heard), family social support (modified Social Support Microsystem Scale), and depression (Children's Depression Inventory). We used longitudinal multilevel analysis to estimate the effects of witnessing IPV and community violence exposure, social support, and the interactions of violence exposure, social support, and gender on the children's depression across the six time points; we defined individual children as the Level 2 unit of analysis and repeated measurements nested within each child as the Level 1 unit.
Results: We found heterogeneity across children in terms of their initial levels of depression and their trajectories of depression over time. Over time, change in witnessing IPV and exposure to community violence positively co-varied with depression, while change in social support inversely co-varied with depression. Two significant three-way interactions were found: Gender and initial social support, as well as gender and initial witnessing of IPV, both significantly moderated the effect of change in witnessing IPV on the children's depression over time.
Conclusions: The findings indicate that witnessing IPV and community violence exposure are both associated with depression over time. However, gender, family social support, and initial levels of witnessed IPV all moderate the relationship between witnessing IPV and depression over time. Interventions should focus on facilitating social support among children, particularly girls, who are experiencing co-occurring violence exposure.