Researchers at the University at Buffalo have concluded that the roots of teen dating violence extend back to very early childhood experiences, and having a parent with an alcohol use disorder is a major contributor.
Published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, the researchers' study involved an extended evaluation of 144 teenagers whose fathers had an alcohol use disorder. Lead researcher Jennifer A. Livingston, PhD, a senior research scientist at the university's Research Institute on Addictions, said in a news release, “It appears that family dynamics occurring in the preschool years and in middle childhood are critical in the development of aggression and dating violence in the teenage years.”
Specifically, Livingston and colleagues stated that mothers living with a partner with an alcohol use disorder tended to have more depression and therefore were less sensitive in their interactions with their children. This could then lead to less emotion regulation by the children, who would thus be more susceptible to aggressive behavior in the later childhood and adolescent years.
“Our findings underscore the critical need for early intervention and prevention with families who are at-risk due to alcohol problems,” Livingston said. “Mothers with alcoholic partners are especially in need of support.”