The Sleeper Effect of Intimate Partner Violence Exposure: Long-Term Consequences On Young Children's Aggressive Behavior
Methods: Secondary data analysis was conducted using the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW), a national longitudinal study designed to assess outcomes of children who have been referred to Child Protective Services for maltreatment. Data was collected at four timepoints between 1999 and 2007. Children were between birth and 3 years at baseline who were either exposed to IPV at baseline but then never subsequently exposed (n = 107, early IPV exposure) or never exposed to IPV over the course of the study (n = 339). At each timepoint, mothers reported past year frequency of physcial assualt by their partner (Conflict Tactics Scale) and their children’s aggressive behavior problems (Child Behavior Checklist). Latent growth curve modeling was used while controlling for maternal demographics, maternal substance use, maternal depression, household characteristics, and child maltreatment. This modeling allowed for empirical exploration of developmental trajectories and considered whether initial social development trajectories and change over time vary according to early IPV exposure.
Results: Children who were exposed to more frequent early exposure did not have significantly different aggressive behavior problems initially than children who were never exposed. However, over time the more frequently children were exposed between birth and 3 years the more aggressive behavior problems were exhibited by age 8.
Conclusions and Implications: Because the negative effects of early IPV exposure are delayed until the child is of school age, early intervention is necessary for reducing the risk of later aggressive behavior. An initial assessment directly following exposure to IPV may not be able to identify behavior problems in the children. However, as these results suggest, there are long-term negative behavioral effects on children who have been exposed to IPV at an early age.