Continuity and Pathways from Aggression in Childhood to Family Violence in Adulthood: A 30-year Longitudinal Study

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Journal of Family Violence, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp. 231-242

A growing body of research suggests that early patterns of aggressive behaviour and conduct disorder are predictive of later violent behaviour, including domestic violence and child maltreatment. This study used Structural Equation Modeling to test the hypothesis that maladaptive behaviour patterns in childhood may influence the later life functioning of individuals through a variety of pathways. Data were taken from the Concordia Longitudinal Risk Project, which began in 1976 with 1,770 francophone children from a lower socioeconomic area in Montreal, Quebec. The sample used in this study was made up of all ongoing participants who had become parents and were living with at least one of their children at the time of the most recent data collection, and who had completed the Conflict Tactics Scale questionnaire. Participants in the parental violence sample (N=357, n=249 mothers and n=108 fathers) had a mean age of 34.10 years and a mean of 12.2 years of schooling.

Results showed that for fathers, childhood aggression directly predicted violence towards children. For mothers, childhood aggression predicted violence towards children indirectly, through the effects of decreased educational attainment and parenting in the context of parental absence. Direct paths were found from childhood aggression to spousal violence for both fathers and mothers. In summary, for both men and women, childhood aggression may be an identifiable precursor of family violence and child abuse.

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