The transmission of violence and trauma across development and environmental contexts

Voith, L. A., Topitzes, J., and Berg, K. A. (2020). The transmission of violence and trauma across development and environmental contexts: Intimate partner violence from the perspective of men with histories of perpetration. Child Abuse & Neglect, 99.

Research has established a relation between ecological contexts and intimate partner violence (IPV), but little is known about how environmental factors affect childhood development over time and culminate in IPV perpetration from the perspective of men who perpetrated IPV.

Using grounded theory, this study employed focus groups with 32 predominately low-income, African American men in batterer intervention programs to explore factors and processes through which families, neighborhoods, and policy influence men’s development, contributing to their use of IPV. Using an inductive approach, the researchers cycled between data collection and analysis resulting in a parsimonious conceptual model validated by participants.

Three core categories emerged from focused and axial coding: adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and trauma, structural forces, and systemic forces. Theoretical coding illuminated how these core categories relate to each other, producing a collective narrative illustrating how environmental contexts contributed to men’s development. Study participants described childhood exposure to adversity and trauma within the home that diminished essential foundations of trust and safety. Positive (e.g., Old Heads, matriarchs) and negative (e.g., gangs, community violence) structural neighborhood forces influenced the social learning of violence and exposed participants to re-traumatization outside the home during their adolescence. Finally, key macro forces such as mass incarceration exacerbated violence and trauma exposure through the proliferation of high-risk neighborhoods, predisposing men toward IPV as young adults.

Findings reinforce the notion that environmental stress not buffered by protective adults profoundly affects development and behavior. From the perspective of male perpetrators, our results help identify those stressors and how they might contribute to male-to-female IPV.

Link to publication

All Publications