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Violent Childhood Experiences and the Risk of Intimate Partner Violence in Adults: Assessment in a Large Health Maintenance Organization

NCJ Number
Journal of Interpersonal Violence Volume: 18 Issue: 2 Dated: February 2003 Pages: 166-185
Charles L. Whitfield; Robert F. Anda; Shanta R. Dube; Vincent J. Felitti
Date Published
February 2003
20 pages
Using a sample of 8,629 participants (54 percent women and 46 percent men) in the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study conducted in a large health maintenance organization (HMO), this study examined whether being a victim of childhood physical or sexual abuse or being the child of a battered mother increased the risk of adult women being victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) or adult men being perpetrators of IPV.
The study found that adults exposed to family aggression and violence as children had a significantly higher risk of becoming a victim of IPV (women) or a perpetrator of IPV (men). Among women, there was a strong graded relationship between the number of adverse childhood experiences and the risk of being a victim of IPV. Similarly among men, there was a strong graded relationship between the number of these types of experiences and the risk of subsequently perpetrating IPV. These findings confirm those of previous studies and show the importance of screening for a history of childhood abuse or exposure to domestic violence in assessing adults for the risk of IPV. The study population was drawn from Kaiser Permanente's Health Appraisal Center in San Diego, CA. Two weeks after the completion of their health evaluation, individuals were mailed a questionnaire that elicited detailed information on adverse childhood experiences (three categories of abuse and four categories of family dysfunction) as well as additional information about health-related behaviors from adolescence to adulthood. Single questions from the Conflict Tactics Scale were used to assess the risk of perpetrating or being the victim of IPV. The analysis did not intend to examine detailed histories of specific types or severity of IPV. 5 tables and 67 references