The Role of Attachment in the Intergenerational Transmission of Abuse: From Childhood Victimization to Adult Re-Victimization and Distress
Description: Research indicates that victims of childhood abuse are at increased risk for transmitting violence in adulthood-a phenomenon known as the intergenerational transmission of abuse (ITA). Adult survivors of childhood victimization (i.e., child abuse or witnessed parental violence) are at increased risk for becoming abusive parents, perpetrators of intimate partner violence, and victims of intimate partner violence. The current study examined the latter form of ITA, in which a survivor of childhood victimization is re-victimized in adulthood by intimate partner violence. Attachment theory has been used to explain the ITA by positing that abuse is transmitted across generations via insecure attachment. The purpose of this study was to use structural equation modeling to test the attachment theory of ITA by examining the role of childhood and adult attachment in predicting re-victimization and symptoms of distress in adulthood. In the hypothesized model, childhood victimization by one's parents was hypothesized to predict adult intimate partner violence victimization through insecure attachment relationships in childhood (with one's parents) and adulthood (with one's partner). Furthermore, adult romantic attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance were hypothesized to predict different symptoms of distress. Self-report measures from 59 adult woman seeking services for intimate partner victimization at a domestic violence clinic were analyzed using a partial least squares path analysis. Results supported a reduced model in which insecure attachments in childhood and adulthood significantly predicted the ITA, but only through father-child attachment and not mother-child attachment. In addition, adult romantic attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance predicted different symptoms of distress. Results supported the attachment theory of the ITA and highlighted the importance of examining outcomes of adult attachment anxiety and avoidance separately. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.
Date: December 2010
Creator: Austin, Aubrey A.