The effect of family violence on peer and partner violence patterns: An examination of self-concept as a mediating mechanism

Kristiana J. Dixon, University of New Hampshire, Durham

Abstract

Family violence victimization has been shown to increase risk for later perpetration and re-victimization of violence among both peers and intimate partners. However, few researchers have attempted to investigate the mechanisms that explain the association between family violence victimization and different patterns of relationship violence, including individuals who only experience victimization, individuals who only engage in perpetration, individuals who report both victimization and perpetration, and individuals who have nonviolent relationships. In particular, only a limited amount of research has examined the importance of self-concept in understanding these violence patterns. The current research consisted of two complimentary studies that assessed the mediating roles of self-concept in the association between family violence victimization and later peer and partner violence patterns. The first study was a secondary analysis of longitudinal data from a national survey of youth (ages 0 to 17 years old) that investigated personal mastery and self-esteem as mediators of the association between family violence and peer violence patterns. The second study surveyed a sample of college students and investigated whether personal mastery, self-esteem, and self-concept stability mediated the association between family violence and partner violence patterns.

Consistent in both studies, family violence and self-concept constructs were significant in differentiating individuals with nonviolent peer and partner relationships from individuals with any violence in their peer or partner relationships, no matter the type of violence pattern. Family violence and self-concept constructs largely did not differentiate between victims, perpetrators, and perpetrator-victims. In Study 1, mastery mediated the association between family violence and increased risk for violent peer patterns relative to nonviolent peer patterns. In Study 2, self-concept stability mediated the association between family violence and increased risk for mutual intimate partner violence relative to nonviolent intimate partner relationships. Further research is needed to identify the predictive and mediating factors that determine whether individuals become victims, perpetrators, or perpetrator-victims of peer and partner violence. Additionally, researchers need to investigate how elements of self-concept may interact with each other or other factors to predict violent relationship patterns. The current studies provide evidence of the importance of self-concept in understanding the effects of family violence victimization on later violent relationship patterns. Addressing deficits in self-concept that result from experiences of family violence may be effective in preventing the continuation of the cycle of violence from one generation to the next.