Moylan, C. A., Herrenkohl, T. I., Sousa, C., Tajima, E. A., Herrenkohl, R. C., & Russo, M.
J. (2010). The Effects of Child Abuse and Exposure to Domestic Violence on Adolescent
Internalizing and Externalizing Behavior Problems . Journal of Family Violence, 25(1): 53–63
This study sets out to strengthen research on the individual as well as combined results of exposure to domestic violence as well as child abuse on psychological consequences for adolescence, considering the role played by gender in predicting youth outcomes.
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Theoretical perspective/Previous Research
Studies show that about 10 million children face exposure to the risks of domestic violence in their homes annually, with almost 900,000 classified as maltreated by those taking care of them. In most cases, minors exposed to domestic violence, also experience abuse. Studies also indicate that children undergoing these types of violence are at a higher risk of experiencing numerous adverse psychological as well as behavioral outcomes. “Double whammy” effect is a terminology used by researchers to refer to the effect of dual exposure whereby, minors who go through both domestic violence and child abuse suffer more through later outcomes as compared to young ones who have only been subjected to one form of abuse. Studies on “double whammy” effect show varying results indicating that there is a need for further research. While some of these studies show that doubly-exposed children are more affected than others, other studies show no significant effects of dual exposure.
There are two hypotheses to this study. The first hypothesis is that exposure to abuse escalates the child’s danger to internalizing and externalizing behaviors. The second hypothesis is that youth previously subjected to both child abuse and domestic violence exhibits increased risks for internalizing as well as externalizing behaviors as compared to only one form of abuse.
Facts and figures used for this study were sourced from the Lehigh Longitudinal Study, which is a prospective study on impacts of violence in families, individual resilience as well as families’ resilience, which includes 457 youth.
Respondents for this study came from various environments in Pennsylvania including Child Welfare Abuse and Protective Service Programs, Head Start classrooms, private nursery school programs as well as day care programs. Three classes of data were collected with a sample size of 457 children representing 297 families based on the children’s stages of development in different periods as follows: preschool, school-age and adolescent. Out of the whole sample, 144 kids were from Child Welfare Abuse Programs, 70 of them from Head Start, 105 of them were from child welfare protective service programs, 74 of them from nursery school programs while 64 came from day care programs. The total males represented in the sample were 248 (54%) and total females were 209 (46%). 369 (80.7%) children were white, 51 (11.2%) multiracial, 24 (5.3%) Black/Black American, 6 (1.3%) constituted American Indian/ Alaskan Native race, 1 (0.2%) was made up of the Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander races and 6 (1.3%) was Unknown race.
The first study for preschool children was conducted during the years 1976-1977 at the time when the children aged from 18 months to 6 years. The proceeding assessment was carried out in 1980-1982 at the time when the children aged from 8-11 years. The last assessment made use of 416(91%) of the original sample size and was carried out in 1990-1991 when the children were 14-23 years old. Three measures were used in this study including violence exposure, adolescent psychosocial functioning & behavior, and covariates. Exposure to violence used the child abuse variables which were composed of information on severe physical disciplining collected from authentic official documents of abuse cases, reports from mothers concerning how they discipline their preschool and school going children as well as reports from adolescents on how they were being disciplined by their mothers. The analysis of adolescent behavior and their psychosocial functioning used information from the Achenbach Youth Self Report (YSR). The covariates in this study were based on gender. In this respect, zero=male, one=female, while 55% of the total sample was male. This was used for the purpose of regulation and was analyzed as a moderator of abuse as well as being exposed to domestic abuse during childhood.
Minors, who went through violence by means of child abuse or domestic violence or both, indicated increased degrees of the externalizing as well as internalizing behavior problems that are seen in adolescence as compared to those that have not been exposed to violence. Gender played an important role as a moderator for all outcomes with the exception of depression, indicating that female respondents showed increased responses on the internalizing behaviors while male respondents showed significantly increased responses on the externalizing behaviors. Effects of violence exposure are partially accounted for by correlated risks, with dual exposure predicting higher scores as compared to no exposure for various externalizing and internalizing behaviors in adolescence. Single exposures were found to be statistically indistinguishable for most outcomes.
Conclusion and Discussion
According to this study, the relationship existing between exposures to violence and internalizing and the externalizing behaviors portray different patterns. All groups that were exposed to violence showed higher degrees in behaviors as compared to non-exposed groups but only those that were doubly exposed indicated higher risks. However, the relationship between the two variables is more complex and researchers need to take care of dual violence exposure to avoid understating or overstating later consequences in youth regarding child abuse or domestic violence exposure as the only elements.