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Family Violence: The Role of Trauma

Headshot of Amy Marshall

PI: Amy Marshall

NIH R01HD098172
Administered in: College of the Liberal Arts

The CIRCLES study


Violence within families of young children has considerable adverse psychiatric, psychosocial, cognitive, and physical health consequences for child and adult victims. To develop methods to effectively prevent or intervene in this major public health problem, more specific and nuanced information is needed about incidents of family violence. We are identifying factors that immediately precede violent behavior and promote its persistence or desistence within incidents of violence as well as individual differences in how such factors operate. Given extensive overlap between trauma exposure and family violence perpetration, we focus on diverse forms of trauma-related perceived threat (e.g., rejection, dominance) and theoretically related contextual factors as immediate, incident-level precipitants of the occurrence, persistence, and trajectories of acceleration/deceleration of the severity of violence within the course of incidents of parent to child violence (PCV), intimate partner violence (IPV), and within-incident co-occurrence (or “spillover”) of PCV and IPV. We are also testing whether individual differences in threat perception and trauma exposure predict different patterns of how violence unfolds. This work is designed to help reconcile empirical literatures that disagree regarding the conditions under which trauma and biased threat perception promote or inhibit violent behavior. Because early childhood is a time of increased family stress when rates of PCV peak and children are most likely to be involved in episodes of IPV, participants will include 200 couples (i.e., 400 individuals) with a child age 3-5 years enrolled in urban or semi-rural Head Start programs.

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