Prospective, dyadic links between posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms and family violence in the early years of parenthood

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Abstract

Cross-sectional research has suggested that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom severity may be an important predictor of family violence perpetration; however, causal inference is limited by the absence of studies designed to prospectively predict family violence by PTSD symptoms. In the current study, PTSD symptoms were assessed among 250 trauma-exposed heterosexual couples 10 months after having their 1st child. The number of acts of psychological and physical intimate partner aggression (IPA) and parent-to-child aggression (PCA) that occurred during the past year was assessed at 10 and 24 months postpartum to account for stability in family violence perpetration when prospectively predicting perpetration. Longitudinal actor-partner interdependence models revealed that women's and men's PTSD symptoms positively predicted increases in the frequency of their own perpetration of psychological and physical IPA as well as psychological PCA. Additionally, partners' PTSD symptoms prospectively predicted psychological and physical IPA perpetration but not psychological or physical PCA perpetration, suggesting that partners' PTSD symptoms may directly impact dyadic processes during incidents of IPA but may not generally affect the family environment in a way that potentiates all forms of aggression. No significant gender differences were revealed. Overall, results of the current study largely support existing research and theory while clarifying inconsistencies that have emerged when examining cross-sectional associations. Further, the current results highlight the potential utility of PTSD treatment as an avenue for aggression prevention and intervention efforts during the early parenting years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1000-1006
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Volume33
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)

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