Breaking the Intergenerational Cycle: Partner Violence, Child–Parent Attachment, and Children’s Aggressive Behaviors

Shao Chiu Juan, Heather M. Washington, Megan C. Kurlychek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The link between exposure to violence in the home and children’s later exhibition of violent behaviors is well documented in the criminological literature. To date, most research on partner violence (PV) and children’s welfare has focused on adolescent outcomes. As such, we know little about how PV affects the behavior of the youngest, and perhaps most vulnerable population of children who have been exposed to PV. Our understanding of the PV–child behavior association is also limited because extant research has focused less attention on identifying risk factors that explain and modify the link between exposure to PV and children’s behavior. We use data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a five-wave longitudinal study of U.S.-born children (N = 2,896) and structural equation modeling (SEM), to explore the impact of PV exposure on later aggressive behaviors. We extend the literature on PV exposure and childhood aggression in three ways: (a) We focus on young children’s behavioral outcomes; (b) we identify child–parent attachment as a potential moderator of the PV–childhood aggression relationship; and (c) we investigate variation in the effect of PV exposure on children’s aggressive behavior by children’s attachment to parents. Findings support our hypotheses that exposure to PV during first 3 years of life is associated with increased aggression at age 5 and age 9. We find that the effect of PV on aggression at age 9 is fully mediated through the parent–child attachment. Contrary to our expectations, we do not find evidence of a strong parent–child attachment moderating the impact of PV exposure on children’s aggressive behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1158-1181
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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