Child Indicators Research

, Volume 12, Issue 5, pp 1697–1716 | Cite as

The Association Between Family Violence in Childhood and Mental Health in Adulthood as Mediated by the Experience of Childhood

  • David Mehlhausen-HassoenEmail author
  • Zeev Winstok


Family violence in all of its types and forms, suffered directly or witnessed, is detrimental to healthy child development and increases the odds of poor developmental outcomes, such as impaired adult mental health. Very little knowledge is available about the mechanism that links family violence in childhood with outcomes in adult life. This retrospective study used data collected from 618 students in institutions of higher education in northern Israel (72.2% female, 86.9% Jewish, average age of 25) to test a structural model in which the effects of family violence in childhood on adult mental health are mediated by perceived positive childhood experience. The results show that perceived positive childhood experience fully mediates the effects of family violence (interparental and parent-to-child, physical and verbal) on adult mental health. The results also show that a significant proportion of the variance in adult mental health remains unexplained. These results suggest that in order to better understand the mechanism linking family violence in childhood with developmental outcomes in adulthood, additional mediators might need to be identified. These findings also suggest that some professional interventions be focused on enhancing positive childhood experience, in order to attenuate the harmful, lifelong effects of family violence in childhood.


Family violence Childhood experience Developmental outcomes Mental health 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Sciences, Center for Research and Study of the FamilyUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael
  2. 2.Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Sciences, Center for the Study of SocietyUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael

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