Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 33–45 | Cite as

Racial/Ethnic Differences in Determinants of Trauma Symptomatology among Children in the U.S. Child Welfare System Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence

  • Lauren Fries CostelloEmail author
  • Sacha Klein
Original Article


Past research links childhood exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV) to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), with preliminary evidence that white children may be more traumatized by IPV exposure than African American children. Despite this, few studies have explored the moderating effect of race/ethnicity on children’s IPV exposure and subsequent trauma symptoms. Using a diverse sample of children in the U.S. child welfare system (n = 713) with high prevalence of IPV exposure, this study employs subpopulation analysis with multivariate regression to explore whether race/ethnicity moderates the relationship between IPV exposure and trauma symptoms, and whether differential predictors of trauma exist for white, African American, and Hispanic children exposed to IPV. Race/ethnicity moderates the relationship between childhood exposure to IPV and trauma, with Hispanic children exhibiting fewer trauma symptoms than white children as IPV exposure becomes more frequent. Differential predictors of trauma also emerged by child race/ethnicity. Caregiver’s depression predicted white and African American children’s trauma, while neighborhood quality predicted Hispanic children’s trauma. This study suggests that race/ethnicity correlates with different risk factors for child welfare-supervised children and, as such, should be considered when designing and implementing interventions for this population.


Child trauma Child welfare system Race/ethnicity Intimate partner violence exposure Family violence 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Michigan State University School of Social WorkEast LansingUSA

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