Exposure to Family Violence and Dating Violence Perpetration in Adolescents: Potential Cognitive and Emotional Mechanisms

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Abstract

Objective: The aim of this 3-year study was to examine whether the association between exposure to family violence and dating violence perpetration was mediated by cognitive and emotional schemas. Method: A sample of 867 adolescents (64% girls, ages 12 to 18, M = 13.77, SD = 1.16) completed measures of exposure to family violence, cognitive and emotional schemas (disconnection and rejection, impaired limits, and justification of violence), and dating violence perpetration. Structural equation modeling for longitudinal data was used. Results: Disconnection and rejection schemas at Year 2 mediated the association between exposure to family violence at Year 1 and dating violence at Year 3. Exposure to family violence and impaired limits schemas at Year 1 predicted dating violence at Year 2. Lastly, in girls, exposure to family violence at Year 1 predicted impaired limits schemas at Year 2. Conclusion: Intergenerational transmission of violence occurs but represents a small effect. Disconnection and rejection schemas act as a mechanism through which violence in the family can be transmitted to violence in dating relationships. These schemas should be a target of preventive interventions.

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