Intimate Partner Physical and Sexual Assault & Child Behavior Problems

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Abstract

Purpose

To describe the type and extent of child behavior problems reported by mothers who report intimate partner physical and sexual assault compared to mothers who reported physical assault only.

Study Design and Methods

A descriptive analysis of child behaviors, as measured on the Child Behavior Checklist, for 109 children, aged 18 months to 18 years, who were exposed to intimate partner physical and sexual assault. Multivariate analysis of variance and analysis of variance were used to determine whether children from physically and sexually assaulted mothers differed significantly in scores from children of physically assaulted only mothers.

Results

Scores for youth (n = 21) 12 through 18 years of age of physically and sexually assaulted mothers were significantly higher (M = 61.5, SD = 2.4; p = .025) than scores of youth (n = 10) of physically assaulted only mothers (M = 50.8, SD = 3.5) and higher than scores of clinically referred youth in a treatment sample. Child behavior was associated with the type of violence experienced by the mother; older children were at the highest risk for behavior disorders, especially behaviors of depression and anxiety.

Clinical Implications

Intimate partner violence assessment of mothers during child health visits is recommended with safety planning and guided referral to community counseling, legal, shelter, and health agencies, along with information on the child behavior problems associated with domestic violence.

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