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Intergenerational transmission of violence: The mediating role of adolescent psychopathology symptoms

  • Sabina Low (a1), Stacey S. Tiberio (a2), Joann Wu Shortt (a2), Carrie Mulford (a3), J. Mark Eddy (a4) and Deborah M. Capaldi (a2)...


Evidence on the intergenerational continuity of intimate partner violence (IPV) suggests small to moderate associations between childhood exposure and young adult IPV involvement, suggesting an indirect effects model. Yet, few prospective studies have formally tested meditational mechanisms. The current study tested a prospective (over 9 years) moderated-mediational model in which adolescent psychopathology symptoms (i.e., internalizing, externalizing, and combined) mediated the association between exposure to IPV in middle childhood and young adult IPV perpetration. In a more novel contribution, we controlled for proximal young adult partner and relationship characteristics. The sample consisted of n = 205 participants, who were, on average, assessed for exposure to parent IPV at age 12.30 years, adolescent psychopathology symptoms at age 15.77 years, and young adult IPV at 21.30 years of age. Data suggest a small, significant direct path from IPV exposure to young adult perpetration, mediated only through adolescent externalizing. Gender moderation analyses reveal differences in sensitivity to exposure across developmental periods; for males, effects of exposure were intensified during the transition to adolescence, whereas for females, effects were amplified during the transition to adulthood. In both cases, the mediational role of psychopathology symptoms was no longer significant once partner antisocial behavior was modeled. Findings have important implications for both theory and timing of risk conveyance.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Sabina Low, T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, Arizona State University, Social Sciences Building, PO Box 873701, Tempe, AZ 85287-3701. E-mail:


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We thank the families and couples for their participation, Alice Holmes for coordinating the young adult and couple assessments, Kathy Jordan for data management, and Sally Schwader for editorial assistance. Work on this manuscript was supported by Award 2013-VA-CX-0007 from the National Institute of Justice. Data collection for this secondary data analysis was supported by Grant R01 MH54248 from the National Institute of Mental Health. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Justice, the National Institute of Mental Health, or the National Institutes of Health.



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Intergenerational transmission of violence: The mediating role of adolescent psychopathology symptoms

  • Sabina Low (a1), Stacey S. Tiberio (a2), Joann Wu Shortt (a2), Carrie Mulford (a3), J. Mark Eddy (a4) and Deborah M. Capaldi (a2)...


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