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Maternal depression and intimate partner violence exposure: Longitudinal analyses of the development of aggressive behavior in an at‐risk sample

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Aggressive Behavior

Published online on


A substantial body of literature has documented the negative effects of intimate partner violence (IPV) on a wide range of children's developmental outcomes. However, whether a child's exposure to IPV leads to increased adjustment difficulties is likely to depend on a variety of factors, including the caregiver's mental health and the developmental time period when IPV exposure occurs. The present study seeks to improve our understanding of the long‐term effects of IPV exposure and maternal depression on the development of children's overt aggressive behavior. Longitudinal analyses (i.e., latent growth curve modeling) examining three time points (toddler: age 2–3 years, preschool/kindergarten: age 4–5 years, and elementary school: age 6–8 years) were conducted using 1,399 at‐risk children drawn from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well‐Being (NSCAW‐I). IPV exposure during age 2–3 years was significantly related to concurrent aggressive behavior and aggressive behavior during age 4–5 years. At all three time points, IPV was significantly associated with maternal depression, which in turn, was significantly related to higher levels of aggressive behavior. There was also a significant indirect lagged effect of IPV exposure at age 2–3 years through maternal depression on aggressive behavior at age 4–5 years. Results indicated that maternal depression was a strong predictor of increased reports of overt aggressive behavior, suggesting that interventions to buffer the effects of IPV exposure should focus on relieving maternal depression and fostering productive social behavior in children. Aggr. Behav. 43:375–385, 2017. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.