, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 269-290

The Direct and Indirect Effects of Domestic Violence on Young Children's Intellectual Functioning

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This study examined the direct and indirect effects of domestic violence on preschoolers' intellectual functioning. The sample consisted of 100 women and their 3–5-year-old children (44 boys and 56 girls) recruited from the general community. Forty-three percent of mothers had experienced domestic violence within the last year, defined by at least one physically aggressive act by an intimate partner. Children who had witnessed domestic violence had significantly poorer verbal abilities than nonwitnesses after controlling for SES and child abuse, but there were no group differences on visual–spatial abilities. Domestic violence also indirectly affected both types of intellectual abilities through its impact on maternal depression and the intellectual quality of the home environment. Strengths and limitations of the study are discussed, as well as the implications for interventions for young child witnesses.