Previous studies indicated that maltreatment has a detrimental effect on child development and this disadvantageous experience influences adult's maladjustment. Additionally, important studies pointed out that a confounding risk factor, exposure to interparental violence (IPV), might potentially reinforce antisocial outcomes. Despite an increasing concern about antisocial outcomes of family violence, little information is available on how responses to such exposure unfold over time. In addition, previous studies indicate that antisocial behavior in childhood often persists into young adulthood. In particular, there is strong evidence of individual differences in the growth rate of antisocial behavior. Thus, this research investigates: 1) What is the common growth pattern of antisocial behavior during emerging adulthood? 2) Is there significant individual difference in growth rates in antisocial behavior over time? 3) Are exposure to interparental violence and maltreatment both related to developmental growth of antisocial behavior over time?
Data are from the Rochester Youth Development Study, a longitudinal investigation of the development of antisocial behavior in a community sample of 1,000 youth. Antisocial behavior is based on a self-reported delinquency/crime inventory. Youth reports of delinquency were taken between the ages of 17 and 23 in the RYDS sample. The measure of maltreatment is based on substantiated incident of maltreatment from birth to age 16. Measurement of exposure to domestic violence was gathered from adult caretakers using the Conflict Tactics Scale when subjects were aged 14 to 16. Youth's gender, race/ethnicity, parent education, caregiver transitions, and poverty are used as control variables. Latent curve modeling was carried out to analyze the research questions.
The results showed that there was a difference in growth rates of antisocial behavior from late adolescence to young adulthood (0.28, t = -2.99). Whereas about one-fourth of the respondents showed increased patterns of antisocial behavior over time, 75% of the respondents showed decreased patterns of antisocial behavior over time. Thus, on average, self-reported antisocial behavior tends to decrease across the transition to adulthood (-0.02, t = -2.89). Exposure to IPV and maltreatment with control variables were then simultaneously included to understand whether the violence exposures influence the growth rate of antisocial behavior. The research found that maltreatment was positively related to growth rates in antisocial behavior over time, indicating that children who experienced maltreatment showed elevated antisocial behavior across emerging adulthood (0.05, t = 1.99). In contrast, exposure to IPV was not related to the growth rate of antisocial behavior over time (0.003, t = 0.03) controlling for maltreatment and other covariates.
Conclusions and Implications
This research found that child malreatment is a developmental risk that influences antisocial behavior during emering adulthood, in contrast to IPV exposure. Thus, directly expeirenced violence is a stronger risk factor for antisocial behavior. However, children who were exposed to IPV may encounter different pathways which in turn lead to behavioral outcomes later. More longitudial studies are needed to identify significant pathways that lead antisocial outcomes over time, and then it will serve to promote appropriate prevention and treatment of the problems.