Turns out, boyhood violence victims are more likely to commit similar acts on their intimate partners.
According to a new research, 60 percent of college-aged men reported being both victims and perpetrators of violence with an intimate partner in the year before their participation in the study.
"Men violent with their intimate partners were very likely victims of violence in childhood who developed trauma and poor coping behaviours as a result," said lead author Laura A. Voith from the Case Western Reserve University.
"Yet," she said, "the majority of these perpetrators also continue to be victims of violence themselves."
The findings highlight the need for behavioural programs for violent males that focus on unresolved trauma from their experience as abuse victims, Voith said. However, most treatments for perpetrators are punitive and don't tend to address the childhood roots of violent behaviour.
Intimate partner violence between people currently or formerly in a relationship or close friendship is highest among 18- to 25-year-olds, previous research has shown.
For the study, 423 male students at a large Midwestern university (not Case Western Reserve) completed extensive questionnaires in 2012-13; their responses were anonymous to protect their privacy.
68 percent reported childhood emotional abuse, 38.5 percent childhood physical abuse and 7.3 percent childhood sexual abuse.
23.9 percent of these men reported perpetrating physical violence, 46.5 percent sexual violence and 62.4 percent psychological aggression against an intimate partner in the year before the study.
During the same period, 27.4 percent of men reported physical victimization, 52.2 percent sexual victimization and 58.2 percent psychological victimization by an intimate partner.
"Behaviours created to survive violence or turmoil in childhood leave adults primed to detect more threat in their environments and less likely to master skills needed to feel safe and control their emotions," Voith said. "This trauma influences interpersonal relations, putting once-victims of violence at greater risk of both victimization and perpetration in their intimate relationships."
"Forming a positive alliance centred on trust, not on shame or blame, between patient and the professional leading the rehabilitation effort, has shown promise in helping trauma patients re-enter their lives more successfully once treatment ends," Voith said.
Other key findings from the study:
46 percent of men physically abused in childhood reported sexual victimization in the past year, compared with 29 percent without histories of physical abuse;
55 percent sexually abused as children reported perpetrating physical violence, compared to 21 percent without a history of sexual abuse;
Of men emotionally abused as children, 27 percent reported perpetrating two or more types of violence, while 43.5 percent reported being victimized by two or more types of violence.
The study is published online in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.