The Moderating Role of Attachment on the Association between Childhood Maltreatment and Adolescent Dating Violence
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Approximately twenty percent of female and ten percent of male adolescents report violence in their dating relationships and there is a significant association between dating violence in adolescence and later perpetration of intimate partner violence (IPV) in adulthood. Identification of factors associated with dating violence can inform intervention and prevention efforts. This study was designed to examine the associations of early childhood maltreatment experience and involvement in adolescent dating violence. It also aimed to identify the moderating effect of insecure attachment styles on these associations.
One hundred fifty adolescent who participated in a larger longitudinal study on prenatal drug exposure participated in this study. Participants completed self-report measures of childhood maltreatment at a standard follow-up visit between the ages of 15-19 years. Approximately 18 month later, they completed questionnaires on their attachment styles and level of dating violence perpetration and victimization.
Hierarchical regression modeling revealed a significant main effect for childhood abuse but not insecure attachment on perpetration and victimization of dating violence. Avoidant attachment significantly moderated the relationship between childhood abuse exposure and dating violence: For adolescents who reported an avoidant attachment style, an increase in the level of experienced childhood maltreatment predicted significantly higher increases in victimization by dating violence, compared to those did not have avoidant attachment.
Results suggest adolescents with child maltreatment history and avoidant attachment styles may be at higher risk for involvement in dating violence and support intervention efforts for fostering attachment relationship to attenuate the association between early exposures to maltreatment and involvement in dating violence later.