Witnessing Partner Violence in Childhood: Factors Influencing Emotion Regulation Difficulties in College Students

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Virginia Tech

Witnessing partner violence (WPV) in childhood and adolescence can have significant impact on psychological functioning throughout development. Studies have shown that parenting factors, perceived social support, coping strategies, age at exposure, and gender can influence the relationship between WPV and outcomes. Although WPV can have serious implications towards emotion regulation abilities, empirical research on the link between WPV and emotion regulation is inadequate. The current study examined the associations between the frequency and types of WPV in childhood and adolescence and emotion dysregulation in adulthood. The study further explored the roles of parental bonds, social support, coping strategies, age at exposure, and gender as moderators in the relationship between WPV and emotion dysregulation. Data were collected using an undergraduate sample at Virginia Tech (N = 1040). Results indicated that verbal violence exposure was a significant predictor of emotion dysregulation while physical violence and total WPV were not. Parental warmth moderated the relationship between all three types of WPV and emotion dysregulation, while parental control and age of onset were moderators for total and physical WPV. Social support moderated the relationship between verbal violence exposure and emotion dysregulation. Coping strategies and gender were not found to be significant moderators. Exploratory analyses were conducted to further explore these relationships. The findings and their implications are discussed.

Witnessing Partner Violence, Emotion Dysregulation, Parental Bonds, Social Support, Coping, Age of Onset, Gender