Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 59-73

Exposure to Family Violence in Young At-Risk Children: A Longitudinal Look at the Effects of Victimization and Witnessed Physical and Psychological Aggression

  • Alan J. LitrownikAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, San Diego State University and SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology Email author 
  • , Rae NewtonAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, California State University
  • , Wanda M. HunterAffiliated withDepartment of Social Medicine, University of North Carolina
  • , Diana EnglishAffiliated withState of Washington Office of Children's Administration Research
  • , Mark D. EversonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina

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This study examines the contribution of specific types of family violence exposure (e.g., victim vs. witness; physical vs. psychological) to aggressive and anxious/depressed problem behaviors in young (i.e., 6-year-old) at-risk children. This multisite prospective study of 682 children from four different regions of the country asked mothers and their 6-year-old children to report on violence exposure in their families. After controlling for mother reports of child problem behaviors on the Child Behavior Checklist at Age 4, it was found that subsequent exposure to family violence predicted reported problem behaviors at Age 6. Although mothers' report of child victimization predicted subsequent problem behaviors, witnessed violence was related to these problems only when both mothers and children reported its occurrence. The results of this study suggest that even though there was a relationship between witnessed and directly experienced family violence, both had independent, noninteractive effects on subsequent behavior problems.

family violence aggression witnessed victimization physical psychological