A new study shows that individuals who have experienced violence at an early age may have trouble adjusting to healthy, adult romantic relationships and are at a higher risk to experience marital difficulties.

The research reveals that early exposure to a violent environment is likely to lead to domestic violence situations later in life. Feelings of insecurity, abandonment anxiety, and intimacy issues are also likely to plague these romantic connections.

Additionally, the dynamics of the way couples react and communicate with each other is also related to the likelihood of domestic violence within a relationship. For example, men tend to use violence toward their partner as a means to exert a desire for personal space or avoidance of emotional issues in response to the “clingy” or intrusive behavior of his female partner.

The study included 644 Canadian adults who were in long-term romantic relationships. Each subject completed measures of adult romantic attachment, conflict tactics scales, and dyadic adjustment.

This research highlights the importance of domestic violence prevention efforts starting in childhood, within family environments as well as school- and community-based settings.

Moreover, prevention efforts allow the victim to relate long-harbored painful childhood violent experiences and rectify internal representations of self that cause long-term damage to valuable inter-personal relationships and families.

The research was led by Dr. Natacha Godbout, who is a postdoctoral fellow at the Miller Children Abuse and Violence Intervention Center at the Keck School of Medicine (University of Southern California).

This study is published in the September 2009 issue of Personal Relationships.

Source: Wiley-Blackwell