Lasting Effect of Intimate Partner Violence Exposure During Preschool: Cross-Lagged Analyses of Aggressive Behavior and Prosocial Skills
Methods: To evaluate whether IPV exposure (Conflict Tactics Scale) was linked to later child aggressive behavior (Child Behavior Checklist) and prosocial skills deficits (Social Skills Rating System), a sample of 1125 children was drawn from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW-I) dataset. These data were restructured so that time points reflected child’s age at time of data collection making two time points: age 3-4 and 5-7 years. A series of nested SEM longitudinal models were tested, progressively evaluating within domain stability across time (e.g., aggressive behavior at age 3-4 years to aggressive behavior at age 5-7 years), the influence of IPV exposure on children’s aggressive behavior and prosocial skills deficits, and cross-lagged effects whereby one developmental domain contributes to subsequent change in another domain (e.g., aggressive behavior at age 3-4 years to prosocial skills at age 5-7 years). Finally, a multiple group analysis was conducted, testing if relations differed by gender.
Results: Aggressive behavior and prosocial skills were stable across time. IPV at age 3-4 years significantly predicted concurrent aggressive behavior but not prosocial skills. An indirect effect was found in which IPV at age 3-4 was associated with increased aggressive behavior at age 3-4 years, which in turn, was related to increased aggressive behavior at age 5-7 years. Gender differences emerged; IPV at age 5-7 years was associated with prosocial skills deficits for girls but not boys. In addition, a cross-domain relation existed between aggressive behavior at age 3-4 and prosocial skill deficits at age 5-7 for boys but not girls.
Conclusions and Implications: These finding support that behavioral problems demonstrated later in childhood emerge from earlier adverse developmental experiences and that difficulties in one domain may spill over into other developmental domains. To avert this maladaptive process emerging from IPV, interventions to reduce violence between parents may reduce aggressive behavior and prosocial skills deficits in children. Moreover, when IPV exposure has occurred, interventions to decrease family violence and promote competence in children would contribute to diverting children from maladaptive developmental outcomes. These findings also suggest that gender may be in important factor to consider when designing and implementing interventions. Boys who are IPV-exposed at an early age may require greater attention to developing prosocial skills, while girls may require this attention if exposed later in childhood.