Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 139–151

The Relationship Behavior Networks of Young Adults: A Test of the Intergenerational Transmission of Violence Hypothesis


  • Jennifer Langhinrichsen-Rohling
    • Psychology DepartmentUniversity of South Alabama
    • Psychology DepartmentUniversity of Nebraska—Lincoln
  • Mark Hankla
    • Psychology DepartmentUniversity of Nebraska—Lincoln
  • Colleen Dostal Stormberg
    • Psychology DepartmentUniversity of Nebraska—Lincoln

DOI: 10.1023/B:JOFV.0000028074.35688.4f

Cite this article as:
Langhinrichsen-Rohling, J., Hankla, M. & Stormberg, C.D. Journal of Family Violence (2004) 19: 139. doi:10.1023/B:JOFV.0000028074.35688.4f


The purpose of this study was to determine how negative relationship behaviors are structured in the semantic networks of young adults from violent versus nonviolent homes. Participants included 110 students (72 females and 38 males) from a large Midwestern university who were enrolled in an introductory psychology class. They completed a sorting task that involved relationship behavior stimuli. As hypothesized, differences were found in the composite sorting patterns, as represented by multidimensional scaling (MDS) solutions, for three different groups categorized by their family-of-origin violence history (i.e., nonvictimized by/did not witness parental violence, “None”; victimized only, “Victim”; and both witnessed/victimized, “Both”). Interpretations of the MDS solutions revealed different associations between violent and nonviolent conflict behaviors for victimized versus nonvictimized individuals, suggesting different semantic associations for conflict for individuals in the two groups. In a second set of analyses, separate solutions were generated for perpetrating and nonperpetrating individuals from violent families. Perpetrator and nonperpetrator solutions were also found to differ significantly. These findings suggest that relationship-specific semantic networks are associated with both past and current experiences with violence. One interpretation of these findings is that cognitive differences, generated in the family of origin, may serve to perpetuate a cycle of violence in subsequent romantic relationships.

family violencedating violenceintergenerational transmissioncognitions

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2004