Abstract: Profiles of Intimate Partner Violence and Harsh Discipline: Understanding Risk and Co-Occurrence (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Profiles of Intimate Partner Violence and Harsh Discipline: Understanding Risk and Co-Occurrence

Friday, January 17, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 14, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Ashley Rousson, MSW, Predoctoral Research Associate, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Todd Herrenkohl, PhD, Professor, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Background: Research has centered on the overlap between child maltreatment and children’s exposure to domestic violence but few studies have investigated whether adults in violent and abusive relationships are also more likely to use harsh and abusive disciplining practices with their own children.  The current study uses data from a prospective investigation of the correlates and consequences of child maltreatment and intergenerational patterns of abuse to examine this issue. Person-centered models are used to explore heterogeneity in experiences of adult IPV and use of harsh physical and verbal discipline with young children. Evidence of an association between IPV and harsh discipline would point to the need for hybrid models of prevention and intervention that focus simultaneously on increasing safety and lessening abuse in adult relationships while helping caregivers replace problematic disciplining strategies with those more attuned to the developmental needs of children and less likely to contribute to repeated cycles of violence across generations. Findings will be discussed with reference to developmental theory and risk and resilience models.

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.