The long-term effects of exposure to family violence: Anxiety, depression, and aggression in a college population

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Alan Rosenblaum


Marital violence, Child abuse, Abuse, Aggression, Depression

Subject Categories



This dissertation assessed the long-term psychological and behavioral effects of exposure to three kinds of family violence: witnessing marital violence, experiencing child abuse, and the combination of witnessing marital violence and experiencing direct abuse.

College students (n = 550) completed screening measures to determine group placement on the categorical independent variables of Parental Relationship: viewed violence (VV), discord (D), and satisfactorily married (SM), Abuse: abused (A) and non-abused (NA), and sex: female (F) and male (M). All subjects completed standardized measures of anxiety (Spielberger Trait Anxiety Scale), depression (Beck Depression Inventory), and aggression (Buss-Durkee Inventory) and self report measures of violence against intimates (Conflict Tactics Scale) and non-intimates (Aggressive Behavior Scale).

Hypotheses concerning the long term effects of witnessing marital violence predicted that the women who viewed violence would report more aggression and depression than other women. The VV group was expected to report more violence against intimates and a larger proportion was expected to report moderate depression. Results found the VV group to differ significantly from the SM group on depression. VV women reported higher mean depression than SM women. The VV group reported significantly more aggression against non-intimates than did the D or SM groups. A trend was found for the VV groups to use more violence against intimates; furthermore, a significantly larger proportion of those who viewed violence used violence within dating relationships.

Hypotheses concerning the long term effects of child abuse predicted that abused subjects would exhibit higher levels of anxiety, depression, and aggression. Results found the abused to report higher levels of aggression against non-intimates. Although the abused group did not report higher mean depression, a larger proportion of A than NA reported high levels of depression. An abuse by parental relationship interaction on the Buss found the SM-A group to report a higher level of aggression than the SM-NA group.

The third set of hypotheses predicted that those who both viewed marital violence and sustained direct abuse would report increased use of aggression. The VV-A and VV-NA groups did not differ on the aggression measures. Exploratory analyses found no differences on the depression or anxiety measures.