Adolescent Exposure to Violence and Intimate-Partner Violence Mediated by Mental Distress

Heinze, J. E., Hsieh, H. F., Thulin, E. J., Howe, K., Miller, A. L., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2021). Adolescent exposure to violence and intimate-partner violence mediated by mental distressJournal of applied developmental psychology72, 101215.


Adolescent exposure to violence (ETV) is associated with multiple negative health outcomes. Despite evidence linking adolescent ETV with later experiences of physical, sexual and psychological intimate partner violence (IPV) victimization, more longitudinal evidence is needed, and potential explanatory mechanisms should be tested. We examine data collected over 17 years to analyze the mediating effects of mental distress and substance use on the association between cumulative ETV in adolescence and IPV in adulthood. Adolescent (Mages=15-18 years) ETV was associated with IPV outcomes in adulthood (Mage=32 years). In parallel mediation models, mental distress in emerging adulthood (Mages=20-23 years) fully mediated the effect of adolescent ETV on later IPV outcomes. Although substance use predicted experience of IPV, it did not mediate the association between ETV and IPV. These findings have implications for understanding trajectories of risk following violence exposure and inform intervention work through identifying developmental periods where ETV contributes to later IPV victimization.

Keywords: cumulative exposure to violence, depression, anxiety, substance use, intimate partner violence, emerging adulthood