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Links Between Teenage And Domestic Violence

August 2007 - A study from the University of Washington published in Violence and Victims and funded by the National Institutes on Drug Abuse and Mental Health has identified a link between teenage and domestic violence. Using data from more than 800 participants in the longitudinal Seattle Social Development Project, researchers Todd Herrenkohl, Rick Kosterman, W. Alex Mason and J. David Hawkins found that adolescents who engaged in violent behavior relatively regularly throughout their teenage years or who began in their mid teens and increased with time were significantly more likely to perpetrate domestic violence in their mid 20s.

Todd Herrenkohl, lead author and associate professor of social work said:

"Most people think youth violence and domestic violence are separate problems, but this study shows that they are intertwined."

The Seattle project identified four patterns of violence between the ages of 13 and 18:

  • "non-offenders" (60 per cent)
  • "desisters" who engaged in early violence but stopped by age 16 (15 per cent)
  • "chronic offenders" who began early and persisted at a moderate level (16 per cent), and
  • "late increasers" who began in mid adolescence and became increasingly involved (9 per cent)

The current research found that by the age of 24 nearly 650 of the original participants had had a partner. About 19 per cent reported having committed domestic violence in the past year, nearly twice as many women as men. Chronic offenders and late increasers were significantly more likely than non-offenders to have perpetrated moderately severe domestic violence. Unlike previous studies, researchers found no independent link between alcohol use and the commission of domestic violence and speculate an association might have emerged if more severe forms had been measured.

A young adult's chances of involvement in domestic violence were increased if:

  • they had been diagnosed with a major depressive illness
  • were in receipt of welfare benefits
  • had a partner with a significant drug problem
  • sold drugs
  • had a history of violence toward others
  • had an arrest record
  • were unemployed
  • lived in areas where drugs and violence were the norm

Todd Herrenkohl commented:

"Individuals who have a history of anti-social behavior may be more likely to find a partner with a similar history and re-create what they experienced as children. They may also be more likely to be in places in their communities where they interact with people with the same types of behaviour."

"The take-home message from this study is that it may be possible to prevent some forms of domestic violence by acting early to address youth violence. Our research suggests the earlier we begin prevention programs the better, because youth violence appears to be a precursor to other problems including domestic violence."

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