This study examined etiological pathways from parental psychopathology and marital conflict in a child's infancy to the child's involvement in dating violence in late adolescence in a sample of children at high-risk due to parental alcohol problems.
Family processes in early life have been implicated in adolescent involvement in teen dating violence, yet the developmental pathways through which this occurs are not well understood. In the current study, families (N = 227) recruited when the child was 12 months of age were assessed at 12-, 24-, 36-months; kindergarten; and 6th, 8th, and 12th grades. Slightly more than half of the children were female (51 percent) and the majority were of European American descent (91 percent). The study found that parental psychopathology in infancy was indirectly associated with teen dating violence in late adolescence via low maternal warmth and self-regulation in early childhood, externalizing behavior from kindergarten to early adolescence, and sibling problems in middle childhood. Marital conflict was also indirectly associated with teen dating violence via child externalizing behavior. Maternal warmth and sensitivity in early childhood emerged as an important protective factor and was associated with reduced marital conflict and increased child self-regulation in the preschool years as well as increased parental monitoring in middle childhood and early adolescence. Family processes occurring in the preschool years and in middle childhood appear to be critical periods for creating conditions that contribute to dating-violence risk in late adolescence. These findings underscore the need for early intervention and prevention with at-risk families. (Publisher abstract modified)
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