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Violence victims and perpetrators more likely to become depressed

Adolescents and young adults who are victims or are perpetrators of intimate partner violence (IPV) are more likely to experience the symptoms of depression, says the American Sociological Association (ASA).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describe intimate partner violence as “physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse.” The study by Bowling Green State University researchers was announced on March 5, 2014, and was published as “Intimate Partner Violence and Depressive Symptoms During Adolescence and Young Adulthood” in the March issue of the “Journal of Health and Social Behavior.”

Data from the Toledo Adolescent Relationships Study was used to examine the effects of violence on the relationships of adolescents and young adults. The first interview was conducted in 2001 when the participants were ages 12 to 19. Another interview followed about one year later, and then two follow-ups occurred in two year intervals, finishing when the respondents were ages 17 to 24.

The self-reported incidents from perpetrators of violence and victims of were examined in the study. Researchers also considered the effects of earlier victimization by peers or family and the individual’s role in the violence either as a victim or perpetrator.

Study findings:

  • A few participants reported that they had continual involvement in intimate partner violence across relationships
  • A common pattern was that violence was present in one or two relationships
  • Intimate partner violence victims, perpetrators and both groups experienced an increase in depressive symptoms
  • The effects of violence seem to be limited to the most current or recent relationship
  • Previous exposure to partner violence does not amplify depression symptoms

Psychological distress and depression can undermine a young person’s confidence and self-worth, potentially compromising their ability to transition into adulthood. “Consequently, the costs of IPV may be long term and have additional implications for individuals’ choices associated with family formation and stability as well as economic and educational attainment,” the study stated.

“In general, young women experience more symptoms of depression than their male counterparts,” said Dr.. Peggy Giordano. “However, in terms of IPV, our study indicates that high levels of discord within an intimate relationship have a similar negative effect on the emotional well-being of young men and women.”

Researchers argue that the link between violence perpetration and depressive symptoms indicates that the intimate relationship has negative dynamics and a lot of conflict.

“Prevention efforts focusing on IPV appear to have changed public attitudes about the general acceptability of these behaviors—in turn, perpetrators are not immune to negative societal views about those who have resorted to violence within their intimate relationships,” Johnson said.

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