The study, by researchers at the University of Washington, found that youth violence and domestic violence are not unrelated problems as previously believed, and that those teens who get violent in their adolescence are more likely to be violent as adults.
"Most people think youth violence and domestic violence are separate problems, but this study shows that they are intertwined," said Todd Herrenkohl, lead author of the study and a UW associate professor of social work.
As a part of the study the researchers analysed data from the on-going Seattle Social Development Project which has been tracing youth development and the social and antisocial behaviour of more than 800 participants between the ages of 13 and 18.
The Seattle Social Development Project had shown four patterns of youth:
· Non-offenders, the largest group (60 percent), did not engage in violent behavior in adolescence.
· Desisters (15 percent) engaged in violence early on but stopped by age 16.
· Chronic offenders (16 percent) began violent behaviour early and it persisted at a moderate level up to age 18.
· Late increasers (9 percent) became involved with violence in mid adolescence with the behaviour increasing up to age 18.
The new study found that individuals from the last two groups were significantly more likely than non-offenders to have committed moderately severe forms of domestic violence when they were 24 years old.
At that age, nearly 650 of the original students had a partner and about 19 percent of them, or 117 individuals, reported having committed domestic violence in the past year.
The researchers also found that there was no independent link between an individual's use of alcohol or drugs and committing domestic violence. This finding came as a bit of a surprise to researchers as other studies have shown an association between the two.
The study also showed a number of personal characteristics, partner characteristics and neighborhood conditions that increased an individual's chances of being involved in domestic violence as a young adult.
Being diagnosed with a major episode of depression or receiving welfare were significantly related to committing domestic violence, as were having a partner who used drugs heavily, sold drugs, had a history of violence toward others, had an arrest record or was unemployed.
Disorganized neighborhoods where attitudes toward drug sales and violence were favorable also increased a person's likelihood of committing domestic violence.
"Individuals who have a history of anti-social behavior may be more likely to find a partner with a similar history and re-create what they experienced as children. They may also be more likely to be in places in their communities where they interact with people with the same types of behavior," said Herrenkohl.
"The take-home message from this study is that it may be possible to prevent some forms of domestic violence by acting early to address youth violence. Our research suggests the earlier we begin prevention programs the better, because youth violence appears to be a precursor to other problems including domestic violence."
In addition it showed that nearly twice as many women as men said they perpetrated domestic violence in the past year including kicking, biting or punching their partner, threatening to hit or throw something at their partner, and pushing, grabbing or shoving their partner.
Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Mental Health, the paper appears in the current issue of the journal Violence and Victims.