Prior research indicates that different types of childhood maltreatment frequently co-occur and confer risk for adulthood intimate partner violence (IPV). However, it is unknown whether the risk of IPV is due to specific type(s) of maltreatment or to their shared association or both. Although these competing explanations have different implications for intervention, they have never been evaluated empirically.
Data were drawn from a nationally representative survey of 34,653 US adults, the 2004-2005 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). Structural equation modeling was used to simultaneously examine the shared and specific effects of five types of childhood maltreatment (i.e., sexual abuse, physical and emotional abuse and neglect) on the risk of different IPV behaviors (i.e., perpetration, victimization and reciprocal violence). Analyses were stratified by sex and adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics (i.e., age, personal income, educational background and race/ethnicity).
Most types of childhood maltreatment increased the risk of victimization, perpetration and reciprocal violence. Effects of maltreatment types on each IPV behavior were exerted mostly through a latent factor representing the shared effect across all different types of maltreatment in both sexes (CFI = 0.990, TLI = 0.990, RMSEA = 0.023), although sexual abuse had an additional effect on victimization.
Because childhood maltreatment types increase the risk of each intimate partner violence behavior mainly through a general maltreatment dimension, underlying biological and developmental-ecological mechanisms should be considered important targets of prevention for both victimization and perpetration of abuse in adult relationships.
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