A Meta-Analysis of Interparental Aggression With Adolescent and Young Adult Physical and Psychological Dating Aggression

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Psychology of Violence


© 2019 American Psychological Association. Objective: As described by the intergenerational transmission and relationship continuity frameworks, witnessing aggression between one's parents is theoretically related to aggressive experiences in subsequent dating relationships. This article aims to summarize this body of research to estimate the true effect of the association between interparental aggression and dating aggression (DA) in adolescents and young adults. Method: Using meta-analytic procedures, 70 records (98 unique samples) were synthesized to provide a global effect size of the association between witnessing interparental aggression and perpetration and victimization of DA in adolescence and young adulthood. A total of 36,874 individuals provided 336 effect sizes. Results: Consistent with prior meta-analyses with adults, the overall global effect was small (r = .164). A smaller association was present for psychological DA victimization compared with physical DA perpetration, physical DA victimization, and combined physical and psychological DA perpetration; there was no difference between physical DA perpetration and victimization or psychological DA perpetration and victimization. Witnessing both physical and psychological aggression by either fathers or mothers was more strongly associated with DA than witnessing paternal psychological aggression. The association was smaller for prospective reports of interparental aggression compared with retrospective report. Results were consistent across youth gender and age. Conclusion: These results demonstrate the importance of early interparental aggressive actions in understanding subsequent aggressive romantic interactions. Subsequent work should continue to investigate other factors that may further explain DA at these ages.