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Preschooler witnesses of marital violence: Predictors and mediators of child behavior problems



This paper describes a conceptual approach to understanding the impact of marital violence on preschoolers, examines the predictors and mediators of child behavioral problems in a clinical sample of multiethnic preschoolers who witnessed their mothers' battering by their father figure, and presents empirical evidence supporting the use of relationship-based therapeutic modalities in treating preschoolers exposed to violence. We find that exposure to violence and maternal life stress are each predictive of child behavior problems, and that the impact of maternal life stress on child behavior problems is mediated by maternal psychopathology and the quality of the mother–child relationship.This research was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (R21 MH 59661) and by grants from the Irving Harris Foundation and the Miriam and Peter Hass Fund. The authors thank the mothers and children who participated in the study and the assessors who conducted the interviews. We also thank Rachel Kimerling, PhD, and Chandra Ghosh Ippen, PhD, for their review of earlier versions of the manuscript.


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Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Alicia F. Lieberman, Child Trauma Research Project, San Francisco General Hospital, Building 20, Suite 2100, 1001 Potrero Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94110; E-mail:


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