Breaking the cycle of intergenerational abuse: The long-term impact of a residential care program

Jonathan C. Huefner, Jay L. Ringle, M. Beth Chmelka, Stephanie D. Ingram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Objective: The number of youth in residential care programs who have been abused is high. The relationship between childhood abuse victimization and adult intimate partner violence (IPV) is well documented. This study compared the rates of IPV 16 years after individuals had participated in a long-term residential care program with individuals accepted to the program who did not participate. The IPV rates for these two groups were also compared to national normative data. Method: Information on adult functional outcomes was obtained from former residential care and comparison youth via a confidential survey that was administered either by telephone or by mail. Analysis was limited to respondents who were currently married or involved in a marriage-like relationship (n = 131; 92% male). Results: The IPV rates for the sample were 9.3% for those who stayed in the residential program less than 18 months and 6.5% for those who stayed more than 18 months, neither of which were significantly different from the national norm of 8.4%. The IPV rate for the comparison group was 26.1%, which was significantly higher than the national norm. Regardless of length of program stay, respondents who were maltreated in childhood had a 14.5% IPV rate, which was significantly lower than the estimated 36-42% rate projected for individuals with similar backgrounds. Conclusion: We conclude that time spent in a treatment-oriented residential care program was associated with lower adult IPV rates. Specifically, the skills taught in a long-term, treatment-based residential program (e.g., healthy interpersonal relationships, self-government) may have a long-term beneficial impact for adolescents at high risk of adult IPV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-199
Number of pages13
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Cycle of abuse
  • IPV
  • Intergenerational cycle of abuse
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Residential care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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