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Interparental Violence—Effects on Children

Cultural Diversity

A further limitation of existing impact research is that it is based on work with Caucasian or mixed ethnicity families where cultural differences are not targeted (although see Sternberg et al. 1993 for Israeli youth). However, children's reactions to parental violence may vary from culture to culture. It is important to note that within a particular cultural background there are also large individual differences among families in acculturation or biculturation (e.g., Dana 1993), and that, for many families of color, the nuclear family and extended family may play a more central role than for Caucasian families. Many factors besides domestic violence, including poverty and immigrant status, affect ethnically diverse women and their families (Kanuha 1997), which makes the picture complex.

Although information specific to interparental violence is lacking, it appears that the way in which children express distress may vary somewhat from culture to culture. To summarize, there may be a tendency for Asian and American-Indian children and Latino girls to express distress in internalizing ways and for African-American children and Latino boys to show greater externalizing behavioral difficulties (e.g., Allen and Majidi-Ahi 1989; Ramirez 1989; Weisz et al. 1993). Nonetheless, the school problems and suicide rates that mark distress across ethnic backgrounds suggest that non-Caucasian children experience adversity, including interparental conflict, at equal if not higher rates than their Caucasian peers.

In other words, exposure to marital conflict and aggression can be traumatic and is associated with poorer academic, behavioral, and social outcomes for many children. More knowledge is needed about underlying mechanisms and risk and protective factors associated with outcomes for exposed children of all nationalities and ethnicities in the short and longer term.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaPregnancy & ParenthoodInterparental Violence—Effects on Children - The Impact Of Exposure, Effects On Parent-child Relationships, Longer-term Effects, Cultural Diversity