Methods: Data are from the Lehigh Longitudinal Study, which has followed participants for more than 40 years. The study includes families recruited through the child welfare system and other community child care programs. This study uses data from the most recent survey (2010), when participants were on average 36 years old (n = 332). The sample is mostly White, but socioeconomically diverse and gender balanced. Latent class analysis (LCA) examined whether distinct profiles of family violence exist based on IPV perpetration and victimization type (psychological, physical, sexual coercion, injury) and severity (none, minor, and severe), as well as severity of harsh discipline, including verbal (none, yell only, other verbal) and physical. Groups were assessed for differences based on gender.
Results: A three class model included Class 1: No IPV, low harsh discipline characterized by virtually no IPV perpetration or victimization, and some harsh disciplining practices. It was lowest on all types of harsh discipline. Class 2: High verbal aggression and discipline was characterized by high levels of less severe psychological aggression perpetration and victimization, and high levels of yelling as a form of discipline. Class 3: Physical IPV and harsh discipline was characterized by physical IPV perpetration and victimization, both more and less severe, as well as more severe forms of psychological aggression. Harsh discipline was characterized by more severe forms of verbal discipline, including screaming, calling names, and ridiculing, and was highest on physical discipline. No significant differences were found between classes based on gender.
Conclusions: Class composition suggests use of harsh discipline is not unique to families experiencing IPV, but more prevalent in families where IPV is present. Focused attention should be given to understanding the cycle of violence that exists within families and spans generations. Primary prevention of IPV and child maltreatment are critically important, as are interventions that can break this cycle once violence occurs.