Childhood Abuse and Perpetrating Intimate Partner Violence - Is there a connection?

Intimate partner violence (IPV) describes physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, or psychological harm committed by a current or former partner or spouse. It can vary in how often it occurs and how severe it is; IPV can range from one episode of violence that has a lasting impact to chronic and severe episodes that occur over multiple years. IPV can start as early as in adolescence and continue through the lifespan. When it does start early, it is known as teen dating violence.

There are risk factors that increase the likelihood of intimate partner violence. However, they are contributing factors but not necessarily direct causes. It is important to note that not everyone labeled as "at risk" will go on to become perpetrators of violence. There are four different kinds of risk factors: individual, relational, societal, and community. Typically a combination of these four factors contribute to the risk of becoming a perpetrator of intimate partner violence.

Some common individual risk factors include:

  • Low self-esteem

  • Aggressive or delinquent behaviour as an adolescent

  • Being a victim of physical or psychological abuse

  • Witnessing IPV between parents as a child

  • History of experiencing poor parenting as a child

  • Unplanned pregnancy

Examples of relationship risk factors include:

  • Jealousy, possessiveness, and negative emotions within an intimate relationship

  • Marital conflicts, tension, among other struggles

  • Dominance and control of the relationship by one partner over the other

Some societal risk factors are:

  • Traditional gender norms and gender inequality

  • Cultural norms that support aggression towards others

Community risk factors include:

  • High alcohol outlet density

  • Poverty and associated factors

Knowing and understanding these multiple risk factors are important because it could help to identify various opportunities for prevention. A qualitative study was done in Pennsylvania on men who had been convicted as perpetrators of intimate partner violence to observe what they thought would have prevented them from becoming perpetrators. The results yielded five common answers:

  • Education on healthy relationship behaviours

  • Promotion of the respect for women

  • Learning effective communication and anger management skills

  • School-based programs that provide role models

  • Addressing the impact of experiencing violence as a child

There are some protective factors for perpetration of IPV, like having high relationship quality and social support, which could come from family, friends, or neighbours. In order to help decrease the frequency of IPV, greater attention needs to be paid to prevention among youth who are most at risk for intimate partner violence perpetration, including youth who experience violence in the home.

Written By: Sydney