Long-Term Psychological Consequences in Women of Witnessing Parental Physical Conflict and Experiencing Abuse in Childhood
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Exposure to parental domestic violence in childhood is associated with long-term psychological maladjustment. Although previous studies controlled for childhood physical abuse, it is unclear how the coexisting risk factors of sexual abuse and parental substance use contribute to psychopathology. Questionnaires assessing childhood risk factors and current symptoms were completed by 131 college women. We compared a nonwitness control group with two groups exposed to moderate or to severe marital violence. Witnesses of marital violence experienced more sexual and physical abuse and more parental substance use in childhood than did nonwitnesses and there was more violence in their own dating relationships, even after controlling for other risk factors. Depression, trauma symptoms, antisocial behaviors, and suicidal behaviors were related to childhood experiences of sexual and physical abuse. The need for future research to examine multiple childhood stressors simultaneously is discussed.