Witnessing intimate partner violence as a child does not increase the likelihood of becoming an adult intimate partner violence victim.
ABSTRACT To determine whether adults who witnessed intimate partner violence (IPV) as children would have an increased rate of being victims of ongoing IPV, as measured by the Ongoing Violence Assessment Tool (OVAT), compared with adult controls who did not witness IPV as children. The authors also sought to determine whether there were differences in demographics in these two groups.
This was a cross sectional cohort study of patients presenting to a high-volume academic emergency department. Emergency department patients presenting from November 16, 2005, to January 5, 2006, during 46 randomized four-hour shifts were included. A confidential computer touch-screen data entry program was used for collecting demographic data, including witnessing IPV as a child and the OVAT. Main outcome measures were witnessing IPV as a child, ongoing IPV, and associated demographics. Assuming a prevalence of IPV of 20% and a clinically significant difference of 20% between adults who witnessed IPV as children and adult controls who did not witness IPV as children, the study was powered at 80%, with 215 subjects included.
A total of 280 subjects were entered; 256 had complete data sets. Forty-nine percent of subjects were male, 45% were Hispanic, 72 (28%) were adults who witnessed IPV as children, and 184 (72%) were adult controls who did not witness IPV as children. Sixty-three (23.5%) were positive for ongoing IPV. There was no correlation of adults who witnessed IPV as children with the presence of ongoing IPV, as determined by univariate and bivariate analysis. Twenty-three of 72 (32%) of the adults who witnessed IPV as children, and 39 of 184 (21%) of the adult controls who did not witness IPV as children, were positive for IPV (difference, 11%; 95% confidence interval [CI] = -2% to 23%). Significant correlations with having witnessed IPV as a child included age younger than 40 years (odds ratio [OR], 4.2; 95% CI = 1.7 to 9.1), income less than $20,000/year (OR, 5.1; 95% CI = 1.6 to 12.5), and abuse as a child (OR, 9.1; 95% CI = 4.2 to 19.6). Other demographics were not significantly correlated with having witnessed IPV as a child.
Adults who witnessed IPV as children were more likely to have a lower income, be younger, and have been abused as a child, but not more likely to be positive for ongoing IPV, when compared with patients who had not witnessed IPV.