Domestic Violence, Child Security
& Mental Health

Although interpartner violence increases child vulnerability to mental health problems, little is known about the unfolding mediating mechanisms and the potentiating and protective conditions that help shape the multiplicity of pathways underlying associations between domestic violence and child maladjustment, especially in early childhood. To address these gaps, our broad objective is to identify the pathways involved in the link between domestic violence and young children’s adaptation within the framework of the emotional security theory. Our specific aims include: (1) examining whether direct exposure to the interpartner relationship and parenting difficulties mediate the link between interpartner violence and child maladjustment; (2) testing the hypothesis that the meditational role of parenting difficulties and exposure to destructive interpartner relations are further explained by child difficulties in preserving their emotional security in the interpartner and parent-child relationships; (3) charting the developmental interplay between child emotional security, resolution of stage-salient tasks, and mental health; and (4) delineating how family characteristics may alter paths between family processes, child emotional security, and child mental health.

Two-hundred and fifty mothers, who have experienced a range of violence in relationships with their partners and their 2-year-old children, participate in a three-wave longitudinal study, with measurement occasions spaced one year apart. To address earlier methodological limitations in the literature (e.g., monomethod bias; cross-sectional design; focus on a single domain of child functioning). Our three-wave project is designed to increase the power to test the temporal and conceptual ordering of our variables in mediator and moderator models and to facilitate the charting of the nature and correlates of individual differences in trajectories of child mental health.

Patrick Davies, Dante Cicchetti

Special Thanks To Our Funder
National Institute of Mental Health

Banner Photo Credits: Center Photo © 2005 Anissa Thompson -, Right Photo by Janardan Das