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Revictimization and the Specificity Hypothesis- Do Different Subtypes of Interpersonal Violence Predict each Other?

Author(s): Lioba Langer, Frank Neuner

Background: Revictimization refers to the finding that victims of child abuse have an increased risk of experiencing violence as adolescents and adults. To date, revictimization has been well documented for sexual violence. Recent findings show that the same phenomenon occurs for physical and emotional types of violence and indicate specificity in the relationship. In particular, childhood sexual abuse predicts sexual violence in adulthood and childhood physical abuse predicts future physical victimization. Although emotional violence is among the most harmful types of maltreatment, emotional revictimization has not yet been systematically documented. The aim of this study was to investigate how the three different types of childhood abuse (sexual, physical, and emotional) were related to the three different types of adult victimization (sexual, physical, and emotional).

Methods: In an online survey of 135 adult women with high levels of victimization, sexual, physical and emotional experiences of violence were assessed separately for childhood and adulthood.

Results: Linear regressions indicated specific relationships between childhood sexual and physical abuse and sexual violence in adulthood (standardized beta coefficients .33*** and .21*), while childhood physical abuse predicts physical violence in adulthood (standardized beta coefficient .44***). Emotional violence experiences in adulthood were predicted by childhood sexual and emotional abuse (standardized beta coefficients .20*** and .08*).

Conclusions: The findings partly support the specificity hypothesis of revictimization and have significant implications for practice, particularly for the development of more effective approaches to preventing repeated violence.

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