Given that physical and emotional sibling violence (SV) is the most common form of family violence (Straus et al., 2006), it is important to understand if SV in one’s childhood may impact whether parents witness SV behaviors between their children. Coupled with SV, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are highly prevalent, (Merrick et al., 2018) and may impact parental witnessing of SV in their children. However, to date, the influence of potential intergenerational transmission of SV has been minimally considered (Perkins et al., 2018). This study examines the experience of parental SV and ACEs in their childhood and how that impacts SV behaviors witnessed between their children.
Survey research was conducted through Qualtrics eliciting responses from 209 parents on their childhood experiences with ACEs & SV and SV behaviors witnessed between their children. Along with responding to their experiences with ten ACE categories in childhood, participants were asked about their experiences in childhood as both perpetrator and recipient of 25 behaviors associated with SV as well as what behaviors they had witnessed between their children. Experiences of ACEs were grouped as Abuse, Neglect, or Household Challenges. SV behaviors were grouped as physical or emotional as well as frequency of perpetration or being the recipient of the behaviors. Spearman correlations of all ACEs and SV variables were analyzed. A regression model was then run to examine the associations of all variables (SV, ACEs, and demographics) on witnessing SV between respondents’ children.
Respondents had an average age of 40.52 (SD=7.51), 50.2% were female, 78% identified as Caucasian, 75.6% had a family income of $50,000 or higher, and 63.7% had a Bachelor’s degree or higher. Correlations between types of ACEs and SV were significant indicating increased number of ACEs experienced was related to increased experiences with both types of SV (physical and emotional) as well as frequency of experiencing SV as perpetrator or recipient. ACEs and parental SV was also significantly correlated with witnessing SV behaviors in respondents’ children. The full regression model on parental witnessed SV behaviors between children was significant (F(21, 124) = 20.93, p < .001, R2 = .78) with frequency of SV behaviors experienced in childhood (p < .001) and total ACEs score (p = .004) being significant predictors.
Conclusions and Implications:
Parental experiences with SV and ACEs in their childhood may impact the amount of SV behaviors they witness between their children. Parents from homes where SV and ACEs are prevalent may be sensitized to noticing and acknowledging when SV behaviors occur in their children. Results indicate the need for future research to examine the mechanisms related to the potential intergenerational transmission of SV and it impact for children. The connection between parental experience of ACEs and SV in childhood and witnessing SV between children also points to the need to consider the compounded nature of poly-victimization and its conceivable relation to violence and trauma across generations.