Intimate partner violence, maternal sensitive parenting behaviors, and children's executive functioning

Hanna C. Gustafsson, Jennifer L. Coffman, Martha J. Cox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Objective: Despite knowledge that intimate partner violence (IPV) can negatively affect children's socioemotional and behavioral development, less is known about the impact of IPV on children's cognitive development, including whether it influences their executive functioning (EF). The goal of the current study was to address this gap in the literature, by examining the association between IPV that occurs early in life and EF at school entry. This study also allowed for the investigation of maternal sensitive parenting behaviors as a possible mediator of this relation. Method: Using longitudinal data from a socioeconomically and racially diverse sample of families (n = 154), we investigated the association between IPV measured when children were 24, 30, and 36 months old and their EF when they were 60 months old. We also tested whether maternal sensitive parenting behaviors (measured when children were 24, 36, and 60 months old) mediated this association. Results: Results indicate that, even after controlling for a number of family- and child-level covariates, IPV occurring early in children's lives was negatively associated with their EF at school entry. This relation was mediated by maternal sensitive parenting behaviors, such that higher levels of IPV were associated with lower levels of sensitive parenting behaviors, which in turn were positively associated with children's EF. Conclusions: These findings add to a limited body of literature that links IPV and children's cognitive functioning, and suggest that intervention efforts aimed at improving children's EF may want to simultaneously consider IPV and maternal sensitive parenting behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)266-274
Number of pages9
JournalPsychology of Violence
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • cognitive development
  • domestic violence
  • executive functioning
  • intimate partner violence
  • maternal parenting behaviors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology


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