Title

Developmental Changes in Threat and Self-Blame for Preschoolers Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)

Abstract

The presence of threat and self-blame in children exposed to violence in the home has been linked to a number of negative behavioral and emotional consequences across developmental periods. Little research, however, has examined self-reported attributions of threat and self-blame in children under the age of 6. The current study evaluated the developmental trajectories of appraisals of threat and self-blame in preschool-aged children recently exposed to intimate partner violence. It was hypothesized that (a) children's appraisals of threat and self-blame would naturally decrease over time and (b) there would be a main effect of child sex on appraisals of self-blame but not threat, such that girls would report higher levels of self-blame than boys. Participants included 68 preschool-aged children (ages 4-6) who were interviewed at two time points over the course of 1 year. Multilevel modeling was employed to examine the effects of violence exposure, child age, and child sex over time. Children's attributions of threat were stable over the course of 1 year, but greater child age was related to lower appraisals of threat. Children's appraisals of self-blame increased over time, and there was a trend for girls to report more self-blame than did boys. It appears that without intervention, young children may be at risk of developing relatively stable maladaptive cognitive patterns, thereby heightening their risk of subsequent developmental psychopathology. Furthermore, girls may need additional intervention targeted at addressing attributions of self-blame. © The Author(s) 2013.

Publication Title

Journal of Interpersonal Violence

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