Anger Management and the Process Mediating the Link between Witnessing Violence between Parents and Partner Violence

Article excerpt

Multinomial logistic regression was used on a sample of 14,252 students to determine the extent to which the relationship between witnessing interparental violence and the perpetration of violence is mediated by limited anger management ability, and to determine whether anger management is a mediator for women as well as men. Both males and females who witnessed interparental violence had higher levels of violence perpetration, and those who disclosed witnessing interparental violence had more limited anger management abilites. These limited anger management abilities were associated with increased levels of violence perpetration. This study is consistent with others finding a relationship between witnessing interparental violence and the perpetration of violence but also shows that the relationship between these two variables is mediated by limited anger management abilities.

Keywords : Conflict Tactics Scales ; intergenerational transmission ; abuse ; aggression ; domestic violence

It is well established that children who witness interparental violence have higher levels of aggression ( Bevan & Higgins, 2002 ; Forsstrom-Cohen & Rosenbaum, 1985 ; Heyman & Smith-Slep, 2002 ; Kalmuss, 1984 ; O'Keefe, 1998 ; Wolf & Foshee, 2003 ), including subsequent involvement in violent relationships as a vicitm or perpetrator ( Stith, Rosen, & Middleton, 2000 ). Kalmuss (1984) also found that observed interparental aggression has a stronger relationship with the subsequent perpetration of violence than does physical abuse from parents.

Although research has determined that there is a degree of "intergenerational transfer" of violent behavior from parent to child, it has not provided much information on the possible mediating or intervening variables that act to increase the chances that a child who has seen his or her parents engage in physical acts of violence will later become a perpetrator of relationship violence. Anger management ability is one such possible mediating variable and is sometimes a component of treatment programs for violence offenders. By identifying factors that mediate the relationship between witnessing violence and the subsequent perpetration of violence, the nature of the association between witnessing and perpetrating violence will be better understood.

A number of mediating variables have previously been investigated, such as selfesteem ( O'Keefe, 1998 ), liberal or conservative views toward women ( Alexander, Moore, & Alexander, 1991 ; Lichter & McCloskey, 2004 ), and acceptance of family violence ( Markowitz, 2001 ). If anger management is found to be an additional mediating factor, it would aid in more fully explaining the association between interparental violence and the subsequent perpetration of violence, as well as address issues surrounding the treatment of perpetrators of violence. A significant relationship between limited anger management and the perpetration of violence would strengthen the case for anger management as a component of treatment for aggressors of family violence.

Prior work has long suggested that anger and skill deficits in areas such as assertiveness may play critical roles in the perpetration of domestic violence ( Maiuro, Cahn, & Vitaliano, 1987 ; Maiuro, Cahn, Vitaliano, Wagner, & Zegree, 1988 ). However, there appears to be only one study examining anger control as a developmental and mediating variable, and it did so by examining "anger expression styles" rather than anger management ability ( Wolf & Foshee, 2003 ).

Limited anger management ability can manifest itself as low self-control and impulsive behavior. Lack of self-control and impulsivity have long been associated with criminal behavior ( Davey, Day, & Howells, 2005 ; Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990 ). If witnessing violence between parents leads to low anger mangement ability, we can expect this to be associated with physically assaulting a partner. …