Domestic Violence Travels Down Through Generations, Study Finds

Adults whose parents experienced intimate-partner violence often become abusers or victims themselves

FRIDAY, Nov. 1, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- The risk of domestic violence often is passed from parents to their children, a new study finds.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 1,600 American families and found that nearly four out of five families in which parents were involved with intimate-partner violence had adult children who committed violence against partners, and three-quarters of those families had adult children who became victims of domestic violence.

"These families, unfortunately, were not able to break the cycle of violence," study author Kelly Knight, an assistant professor in the College of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University, in Huntsville, Texas, said in a university news release.

"Most parents who had experienced intimate-partner violence had children who eventually grew up to experience intimate-partner violence themselves," Knight said.

Examples of intimate-partner violence include pushing, grabbing, slapping, throwing something, hitting with a fist, hitting with an object, choking, beating, threatening with a weapon, using a weapon, and attempting to kill a partner or spouse.

The vast majority of parents in the study -- 92 percent -- said they had committed a least one minor act of intimate-partner violence, and about two-thirds said they had committed at least one violent act against their partner, the investigators found. Among their adult children, four out of five said they had committed at least one minor incident of intimate-partner violence, and one-third said they used violence against a partner.

Sixty-six percent of parents and 36 percent of adult children said they were victims of violence at the hands of their partners, the study found. In addition, 93 percent of parents and 78 percent of adult children said they had been a victim of minor incidents of intimate-partner violence.

One-fifth of the people in the study said they had participated in three or more types of intimate-partner violence, according to the study, which is scheduled for presentation in November at the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology in Atlanta. The data and conclusions of research presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about intimate-partner violence.

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