History of violence, cognitive disruptions, and acceptance of relationship violence: A study of revictimization

Date of Completion

January 2003


Psychology, Clinical




Prior research suggests that violence in the family of origin is associated with acceptance of relationship violence, which in turn increases the likelihood of engaging in violent romantic relationships. Constructivist Self Development Theory suggests that trauma can disrupt cognitive schemas and influence negative behavioral and psychological outcomes. Participants were 303 female college students who responded to questionnaires assessing childhood maltreatment, witnessing of interparental violence, victimization in violent romantic relationships, and cognitive disruptions. Those with a history of violence, characterized by childhood maltreatment, were more likely to experience maladaptive or unhealthy cognitive schemas than those without a history of violence. In turn participants with less adaptive schemas were more likely to find violence in romantic relationships acceptable. Also, they found female perpetrated violence more acceptable than male perpetrated violence. Results of ordinary least squares multiple regressions showed that disrupted schemas fully mediated the association between childhood maltreatment and acceptance of relationship violence. Cognitive disruptions also fully mediated the association between childhood maltreatment and acceptance of both male- and female-perpetrated relationship violence. The results suggest that disrupted or maladaptive cognitive schemas are a pivotal link between history of childhood maltreatment and finding violence in romantic relationships acceptable. Early childhood trauma appears to result in maladaptive cognitive schemas and increased risk of acceptance of violence in romantic relationships. Implications of the findings are discussed and clinical interventions are proposed. ^