Effects of intimate partner violence and home environment on child language development in the first 3 years of life

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Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics


Objective: Intimate partner violence (IPV) can adversely affect children's cognitive development, but links between IPV exposure and language development in the earliest years of life remain unknown. The present study examined the effects of IPV and the quality of the home environment on children's language development at age 3 years. Methods: In a prospective, 5-panel, longitudinal study of 79 mother-child dyads assessed prenatally to age 3 years, we examined standardized measures of receptive and expressive language development at age 3 years. Predictors and covariates included measures of IPV, characteristics of the home environment, maternal education, and maternal depression. Results: Regression analyses indicated a significant main effect of the home environment and maternal education on receptive language, with more supportive homes and more educated mothers at age 1 year linked to better child receptive language at age 3 years. Higher maternal education also significantly predicted better child expressive language at age 3 years. Early exposure to IPV had a direct adverse effect on children's expressive language development; however, interaction analyses indicated that this association was moderated by the quality of the home environment. Specifically, IPV adversely affected expressive language even when home quality was high, indicating that a supportive and stimulating home environment did not buffer effects of IPV on expressive language development. Conclusions: Intimate partner violence may adversely affect expressive language, even in positive home environments. Early language skill is an important predictor of later academic readiness and psychological development; therefore, children from at-risk home environments should be screened and monitored early for intervention.


C. C. Peterson is a faculty member in EMU's Department of Psychology.

*J. Riggs and L. Harrison are EMU students.

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