Trajectories of traumatic stress reactions in children exposed to intimate partner violence

Laurien Meijer*, Catrin Finkenauer, Bas Tierolf, Milou Lünnemann, Majone Steketee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Background: Understanding different longitudinal patterns of traumatic stress reactions in children exposed to intimate partner violence (IPV) can promote early identification of at-risk children. Objective: Our study aims to explore trajectories of traumatic stress reactions following childhood IPV exposure, and their relation with parental traumatic stress and child emotional security in the interparental subsystem. Participants and Setting: The sample comprised 303 children (age 3–10, M = 6.20) from families referred to institutions for IPV. Data were collected at home. Methods: Three waves of parent-reported questionnaire data were analyzed using latent class growth analysis and linear regression. Results: Five trajectories were identified: ‘resilient’, ‘moderate stable’, ‘struggling’, ‘improving’, and ‘elevated adjusting’. Only the ‘struggling’ trajectory had dysfunctional symptom levels at the final wave. Higher parental traumatic stress predicted ‘improving’ trajectory membership (β = 0.17, p = .033), whereas lower parental traumatic stress (β = −0.20, p = .003) and child emotional insecurity (β = −0.45, p = < .001) predicted ‘resilient’ trajectory membership. Higher child emotional insecurity predicted membership in trajectories with higher initial traumatic stress (improving: β = 0.26, p < .001; struggling: β = 0.31, p < .001; elevated adjusting: β = 0.27, p < .001). Child emotional security did not buffer the effect of parental traumatic stress on likelihood of dysfunctional trajectory membership (β = 0.04, p =.380). Conclusions: Children exposed to IPV show different trajectories of traumatic stress reactions, partly corresponding to trajectories identified in other populations. Child emotional security and parental traumatic stress predict trajectory membership.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-181
Number of pages12
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Volume93
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019

Keywords

  • Child emotional security
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Traumatic stress trajectories

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