A Cross-Sectional Examination of Intimate Partner Violence and Mother-Child Communication

  • Rebecca C. Kamody
  • Kathryn H. Howell
  • Laura E. Schwartz
  • Lauren M. Schaefer
  • Idia B. ThurstonEmail author
Original Paper



Parent-child communication about substance abuse, violence, and HIV/AIDS (i.e., SAVA) may protect against intergenerational risks, as open communication can enhance children’s resilience to combat adversities. We used moderation analyses to identify variables that affect mothers’ comfort with communicating with their children about SAVA.


Participants (Mage = 34.62 years; SD = 7.95) were mothers of youth between the ages of 6 and 14 who endorsed experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV) within the last six months. Mothers reported on their experiences with IPV victimization (Revised Conflict Tactics Scale) and perpetration (History of Violence Perpetration Measure), and their comfort communicating with their children about SAVA (Parent-Child Communication about SAVA Scale).


More severe IPV was associated with less comfort communicating (β = −003; p < 0.01). In addition, more frequent IPV perpetration was associated with less comfort communicating (β = −2.46; p < 0.01). Moderation was supported, such that the association between experiencing IPV and comfort with communication varied by experiences with IPV perpetration (β = 0.01; p < 0.01). Child’s age was a significant moderator of the relationship between bidirectional intimate partner violence (i.e., experiencing both victimization and perpetration), and comfort with communicating (β = −0.0004; p < 0.01).


Findings highlight the negative consequences of bidirectional violence, such that mothers who are both victims and perpetrators of violence were less willing to communicate with their children. Given the crucial role of communication in promoting resilience, this lack of communication may place children on a problematic health trajectory.


Mother-child communication Bidirectional violence Substance misuse HIV Domestic abuse/violence 


Author contributions

R.K.: designed and executed the study, analyzed data, and wrote the paper. K.H.: designed and executed larger parent study, collaborated with the design of the present study, and writing of the paper. L.E.S.: collaborated in the writing and editing of the manuscript. L.M.S.: collaborated in the writing and editing of the manuscript. I.T.: designed and executed larger parent study, collaborated with the design of the present study, and writing of the paper.


This study was funded by grants from The University of Memphis Faculty Research Grant Fund and The University of Memphis Diversity Research Grant. This support does not necessarily imply endorsement by the University of research conclusions.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of Memphis Institutional Review Board and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Yale Child Study Center, Yale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MemphisMemphisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Department of Health Promotion and Community Health SciencesTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  4. 4.Department of PediatricsUniversity of Tennessee Health Science CenterMemphisUSA

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