Child Maltreatment, School Bonds, and Adult Violence: A Serial Mediation Model


Physically abused youth are vulnerable to experiencing difficulties across multiple domains of school functioning. Most of the literature examining the relationship between child physical abuse (CPA) and adult violence has focused narrowly on academic outcomes rather than taking a broader view that explores the processes undergirding school engagement and connections. The present study adopted Connell’s model of school engagement, connectedness and outcomes within a social bond framework to examine (a) the link between CPA and school social bonds, (b) the link between CPA and adult violence persistence, and (c) the mediational (parallel, serial) effects of school bonds (engagement, connection, and achievement) on violence perpetration in adulthood. Consistent with previous research, results indicated that children who experience physical abuse have poorer academic performance, which, in turn, is related to future violent trajectories. We further found that the relationship between CPA and violence persistence is mediated by a process of bonding to school that begins with being actively engaged in school activities and ends with higher levels of academic achievement. In particular, some of the ``school achievement'' effect found in previous research operates through behavioral and emotional manifestations and may be partly explained through physically abused children’s lessened ability to be engaged with and connected to school activities. We conclude with a discussion of the policy implications stemming from our findings.

Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 36(11-12) NP5839-NP5873.