Children in Peril: Relationship Between Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence and Children's Behavior

Wednesday, 24 July 2013: 8:50 AM

Brenda K. Binder, PhD, RN, PNP1
Lene Symes, PhD, RN2
Judith McFarlane, DrPH1
John A. Maddoux, MA3
(1)Nelda C. Stark College of Nursing, Texas Woman's University, Houston, TX
(2)College of Nursing, Texas Woman's University - Nelda C. Stark College of Nursing, Houston, TX
(3)Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, Texas Woman's University, Denton, TX

Learning Objective 1: Describe the behavioral functioning of children exposed to intimiate partner violence living in the community as comparted to children living in a shelter.

Learning Objective 2: Discuss the maternal mental health varibles that mediate the relationship between intimate partner violence exposure and children's behavior.

Each year, 4.8 million women are victims of interpersonal violence (IPV), which often leads to chronic pain and psychological and physical illnesses.  Children of these women are exposed to the violence and are more likely than other children to experience psychological and physical illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and asthma.

Purpose: To examine maternal mental health variables that mediate the relationship between intimate partner violence exposure and children’s behavior in 300 abused women and their children.

Methods: Cross-sectional analysis of baseline data from a longitudinal, three-year prospective study comparing the safety, mental and physical health outcomes of two groups of abused women and their children, either seeking a protection order through the justice system or assistance from a women’s shelter for the first time.  Six validated instruments including the Child Behavior Check List.

Results: Shelter women reported significantly more depressive symptoms than community women.  Girls of these women demonstrated significantly higher externalizing behaviors, which were twice as likely to be clinically significant.  Boys when compared to the girls were twice as likely to exhibit borderline clinical internalizing behaviors.  Boys in the shelter were fivetimes as likely to demonstrate borderline clinical internalizing behaviors when compared to boys in the community. 

Conclusions: Women experiencing intimate partner violence seeking assistance from a women’s shelter report more depressive symptoms and their children are more likely to exhibit clinically significant internalizing/externalizing behaviors than abused, community women and their children.  Specific behavior types, mediation variables and a proposed intervention will be discussed.