Exposure to intimate partner violence and internalizing symptoms: the moderating effects of positive relationships with pets and animal cruelty exposure

Roxanne D. Hawkins, Shelby Elaine McDonald, Kelly O'Connor, Angela Matijczak, Frank R. Ascione, James Herbert Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background
It is estimated that more than half of children living in households where intimate partner violence (IPV) occurs are also exposed to animal cruelty (AC). Although prior research links bonds with pets with higher levels of socioemotional competence among school-age children, exposure to AC may negate the protective effects of pet ownership and/or exacerbate the potentially deleterious effect of IPV on children’s mental health.

Objective
The current study evaluates whether and to what extent the associations between exposure to IPV and several indicators of children’s mental health vary as a function of children’s positive engagement with pets and exposure to AC.

Participants and Setting
Participants included 204 children (aged 7-12 years; 47% female; 57% Latinx) and their maternal caregiver who were recruited from domestic violence agencies in a western U.S. state.

Method
Multiple moderation analysis evaluated whether the association between children’s exposure to IPV and internalizing and posttraumatic stress symptoms vary as a function of children’s positive engagement with pets and exposure to AC.

Results
Analyses revealed several moderation effects for positive engagement with pets (e.g., internalizing problems: [b= -.15, t(195) = -2.66, p = .008]; posttraumatic stress symptoms: [b= -.13, t(195) = -2.24, p = .026]), whereas exposure to AC only moderated the association between IPV and anxious/depressed symptoms (b= .32, t(195) = -2.41, p = .017).

Conclusions
These findings highlight the potential protective effects of positive engagement with pets and importance of screening for exposure to AC when engaging in trauma-informed work with children exposed to IPV.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104166
Number of pages13
JournalChild Abuse & Neglect
Volume98
Early online date12 Sep 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2019

Keywords

  • Domestic violence
  • Animal abuse
  • Childhood adversity
  • Trauma
  • Child psychopathology

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