Study Highlights ‘Cycle of Violence’ in Families
Parents who have suffered violence at the hands of their intimate partners are more likely to have children who will eventually experience violence in their own relationships, according to a new study.
The study, published by the Crime Victims’ Institute at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, found that nearly 80% of families where parents were involved in intimate partner violence (IPV) had children who committed violent acts against partners. Three out of four of those families had adult children who became victims of IPV.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines IPV as “physical, sexual or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse.” Examples of IPV include pushing, grabbing, striking, choking or beating a partner or spouse, or threatening him or her with a weapon.
Using data from the National Youth Survey Family Study, which includes a sample of almost 1,700 families, the researchers tracked 353 second-generation parents and their children over two decades.
“These families, unfortunately, were not able to break the cycle of violence,” the study’s lead author, Kelly Knight, said in an October 2013 article on the university’s website. Knight is an assistant professor in Sam Houston’s College of Criminal Justice.
More than nine out of 10 parents in the study said they had committed at least one minor act of intimate partner violence, while 67% of them admitted to perpetrating at least one violent act against their significant other. More than eight in 10 of their adult children admitted to at least one minor incident of IPV, and about one-third acknowledged using violence against a partner.
Women are much more likely to be victims of intimate partner violence. A 2011 report by the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that 25% of women in the United States had suffered “severe physical violence” at the hands of a partner, compared with 14% of men.
According to the CDC, victims of IPV are at increased risk of developing physical and mental health problems, including chronic pain and insomnia.
Knight and her co-authors noted that their findings could help improve policy recommendations for battling domestic violence.
“Clearly, parents’ own involvement in IPV represents an important pathway for children’s later experiences of IPV,” the study noted.
The authors concluded that additional research is required in order “to determine how to interrupt the cycle of IPV that occurs both across the life course and in subsequent generations.”