Trajectories of Children’s Attitudes and Beliefs About Violence in Families Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence

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Abstract

Intimate partner violence (IPV) poses serious risks to the health of women. Numerous studies link children’s IPV exposure to various forms of developmental psychopathology. One possible explanatory factor appears to be children’s beliefs and attitudes about the violence they have witnessed. Little research has investigated how these beliefs may change over time. The sample consisted of 109 mother-child pairs where the mother experienced IPV in the past 2 years. Multilevel modeling was used to examine change in children’s attitudes and beliefs over time. Maternal depression and corporal punishment were associated with higher initial levels of maladaptive beliefs about family violence. Children’s beliefs about violence improved over time. Findings indicate that while cognitive treatments may offer some utility for intervening with children, providing intervention support for the broader family system (i.e., around maternal depression and use of corporal punishment) may also be important pathways to supporting families exposed to IPV.

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