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Childhood Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence and Effects on Social-Emotional Competence: A Systematic Review

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Both in the United States and across the world, intimate partner violence (IPV) is a widespread social problem. It often occurs in households with children, and IPV exposure during childhood is associated with negative sequelae across developmental domains. This systematic review synthesizes the literature on the effects of IPV exposure on social-emotional competence (i.e., social competence, empathy, emotion regulation) from infancy through late adolescence. Seven bibliographic software databases were searched for relevant citations up to August 2020, and a total of 15,354 citations were identified after deduplication. Following a screening process by two research assistants, 381 citations were included in a broader Evidence and Gap Map. Data extraction was completed for included citations, and all were coded into child outcome categories and subcategories. Twenty-six studies examined social-emotional competence. Across studies examining social competence, a majority found that IPV-exposed children demonstrated lower levels of social competence and emotional regulation than a comparison group. Limited evidence was found to indicate that IPV-exposed children also exhibited fewer empathic skills compared with non-exposed peers. Social-emotional competence was additionally identified to significantly mediate and/or moderate the association between IPV exposure and other outcomes (e.g., aggressive behaviors, psychological distress), underscoring that social-emotional competence may be a malleable factor that could promote resilience among children exposed to IPV. These findings highlight the need to further explore the associations between social-emotional competence and other child adjustment outcomes, and develop and implement programming to foster social-emotional competence among IPV-exposed children.

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Bender, A.E., McKinney, S.J., Schmidt-Sane, M.M. et al. Childhood Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence and Effects on Social-Emotional Competence: A Systematic Review. J Fam Viol 37, 1263–1281 (2022).

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