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The Social Anatomy of Adverse childhood Experiences and Aggression in a Representative Sample of Young Adults in the U.S.

NCJ Number
Child Abuse & Neglect Volume: 88 Dated: February 2019 Pages: 15-27
Date Published
February 2019
13 pages
This study assessed the effect of adverse childhood experiences on later aggression and violence across young adult relationship contexts, including intimate partners, friends, or strangers.

Method surveys were conducted with a nationally representative sample of young adults ages 18-32, drawn from the AmeriSpeak panel, a probability-based panel with coverage of 97 percent of U.S. households. The weighted study sample was 2,284 young adult respondents, of whom 1,561 reported being in an intimate partnership. The study found that the rates of verbal aggression perpetrated by young adults declined with the intimacy of the relationship, such that aggression against a partner (72 percent) exceeded aggression directed at friends (43 percent) and strangers (34 percent ). Similar rates of physical violence (about 9 percent) were reportedly perpetrated against partners, friends, and strangers. Adjusting for a range of personal characteristics, both adverse childhood experiences and recent stressors in these young adult lives exhibited direct associations with verbal and physically aggressive outcomes. The study concludes that in models of verbal and physical aggression across relationship contexts, childhood adversity exhibits lasting effects unaccounted for by important proximal life circumstances, including recent life stressors, mental health, and substance use behaviors. These results provide empirical insights for clinical treatment of young adults prone to aggressive conflicts as well as input to positive programming for youth development programming to foster healthy approaches to conflict. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: February 1, 2019