Two primary forms of family violence are intimate partner violence and child maltreatment. Exposure to either type of violence has been shown to have serious negative consequences for a child's overall development. For example, they increase the chances of delinquency, drug use and other antisocial behaviors and decrease the chances of successful school engagement and educational attainment. Preventing these forms of family violence from occurring in the first place would have tremendous benefits both for the individuals exposed to them, their families, and society at large. Unfortunately, there are relatively few prospective longitudinal studies that have identified the developmental pathways that lead to the perpetration of either intimate partner violence or child maltreatment, a situation that hampers the development of effective prevention programs.
Under a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Terence Thornberry and colleagues are using data from the Rochester Youth Development Study to investigate this issue. One pathway already identified concerns intergenerational continuity. That is, individuals who were exposed to intimate partner violence during their adolescence are more likely to engage in partner violence as they age and form their own intimate relationships. Similarly, maltreatment appears to beget maltreatment as individuals who were the victims of adolescent maltreatment are significantly more likely to maltreatment their own children when they become parents.