Methods: A cross-sectional survey (N=2,082) was collected from seven universities in the U.S. and Canada. The dependent variables were IPV perpetration and victimization. The independent variable was community social cohesion during childhood. Community covariates were perceived safety and poverty rate during childhood. Individual covariates were experiences of violence as a child, as well as current drinking problem, drug use, individual financial situation, depression, age, gender, and race. Community poverty rates were retrieved from the 2007-2011 US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey based on the participants’ zip codes. Hierarchical regression analyses were performed to assess the effects of individual and community factors on each of IPV perpetration and IPV victimization for the total sample, as well as male and female samples, separately. Community variables having significant effects on IPV perpetration and victimization were tested for its interaction effect on dependent variables.
Results: The sample consisted of 1,567 female and 515 male students between 18 and 24. Childhood community poverty rate increased, but community social cohesion decreased IPV perpetration for female students (β = 0.03/ -0.08, p<.01), while only social cohesion decreased IPV perpetration for male students (β = -0.16, p<.01). Social cohesion moderated the relationship between community poverty rate and IPV perpetration for female students (β = -0.01, p<.01), with higher childhood community cohesion lowering the risk of childhood community poverty rate on IPV perpetration in adulthood. For IPV victimization, only female students were affected by childhood community poverty rate (β = 0.06, p<.01), while none of the community factors had any impact on male students’ IPV victimization.
Conclusions and Implications: The findings of the study illustrate that community contexts during childhood matter for later involvement with IPV beyond individual characteristics. Community cohesion is a protective factor for IPV perpetration. Our findings suggest that an ecological approach is needed to prevent and reduce IPV with comprehensive intervention strategies including individual and community factors. Second, community-level strategies for community capacity building (e.g., improving community cohesion) may be an effective way to prevent IPV, especially for low-income communities and for females