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Several studies have demonstrated a vicious cycle of violence, in which experiences of childhood maltreatment (CM) transition into later perpetration of aggressive acts. But evidence for the presence of this cycle in adult women is mixed. The aim of this meta-analysis is to investigate the strength of associations and the mechanisms underlying a cycle of violence in women. Databases were searched for terms related to female aggression, violence, delinquency, antisocial behavior, or offending in addition to exposure to traumatic experiences, abuse, or maltreatment during childhood. Only peer-reviewed studies were included that investigated associations between any type of CM and different acts of aggression. Multi-level meta-analyses were applied, as well as meta-regressions, all based on Cohen's d. K = 34 studies were identified. The overall association between exposure to CM was in the positive but small range (Cohen's d = 0.30). There was no significant difference between specific types of abuse and/or neglect. However, associations were smaller for the perpetration of sexual aggression and violent crime compared with other acts of aggression. These findings underline the long-lasting and devastating impact of CM, including types of maltreatment that were long assumed to be less severe. Due to the limited number of available studies, interactions between types of CM and aggression could not be modeled, thus compromising their probable interacting contribution to the cycle of violence. Early interventions targeting families and women at risk are critical in order to prevent ongoing cycles of violence.
Mareike Augsburger,Kayley Basler,Andreas Maercker