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Given what we know about risk factors for child maltreatment, it would be a surprise if experience with, and exposure to, violence as a child would not be a risk factor for IPV. And, indeed, there are no surprises in the literature. Although there are no surprises, it is important to understand that experience of and exposure to violence are only moderately associated with adult IPV (Capaldi et al., 2012; Stith et al., 2004). The majority of individuals who experience violence as children and/or witness IPV do not go on to become perpetrators. There are numerous intervening events and factors to moderate or amplify one’s childhood experience with violence.


One of the most important risk factors for IPV, or for that matter, all forms of interpersonal violence, is age. Data from the National Crime Victimization Survey (Catalano, 2012) reveal that women 18-34 years of age have the highest rates of intimate partner victimization. Among women 50 years of age and older, the rate of victimization is consistently low across the last two decades.

The fact that age is such a strong correlate of IPV addresses one of the myths we raised in Chapter 1. That myth was that violence “always gets worse over time.” In reality, intimate violence is most likely to occur among younger couples. After age 34, the likelihood of any form of violent behavior, including violence toward a partner, declines. Does the violence decline because the perpetrator desists or because the relationship ends? That, we do not know. What we do know is that, by middle age, the likelihood of intimate violence occurring is much lower than in early adolescence or young adulthood.

As with child maltreatment, one needs to examine race and ethnicity as a risk factor with some caution. While there are differences in the rates of IPV in terms of race and ethnicity, the differences are relatively small and are moderated by economic factors. The National Crime Victimization Survey reveals that, in 2010, blacks had the highest rates of reporting IPV, with whites slightly lower, and Hispanics the lowest of the three major groups (Catalano, 2012). Interestingly, the rates declined significantly for all three groups from 1994-2010. The small differences become even smaller when controlling for family income.

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