Childhood Trauma Exposure Exacerbates the Impact of Concurrent Intimate Partner Violence Exposure on Women's Posttraumatic Symptoms

Patricia Cintora, Heidemarie Kaiser Laurent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Although it is well established that intimate partner violence (IPV) is detrimental to women's mental health, it remains unclear to what extent symptoms can be attributed to the proximal effects of IPV exposure itself as opposed to more stable scarring effects or co-occurring risk factors. Heterogeneity in the magnitude of IPV effects further suggests that IPV-exposed individuals are differentially susceptible to disorder, and an investigation of moderating factors that may make women more vulnerable is warranted. We used a prospective longitudinal study of low-income mothers followed from 3 to 18 months postpartum to distinguish the concurrent mental health effects of IPV exposure from overall person-level IPV-mental health associations, as well as to test the moderating role of prior relational traumatic experiences in the form of childhood maltreatment. Multilevel modeling results demonstrated a unique concurrent association between increasing IPV and women's posttraumatic symptoms over time, even after controlling for an overall association between mean IPV and symptom levels. The effects of concurrent IPV were heightened in women who reported a history of childhood maltreatment. Model effects were medium to large, R2 =.27–.35. The implications of these findings for the identification of and intervention with women at the highest risk for relational trauma-related mental health difficulties are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1102-1110
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
Volume33
Issue number6
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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