Intimate Partner Violence and Psychological Distress Among Emerging Adult Women: A Bidirectional Relationship

Background: Intimate partner violence (IPV) and psychological distress (PD) are major public health concerns among emerging adult women. Emerging adulthood presents a complex set of new experiences and challenges that pose a risk to normative development. In particular, an increased prevalence of IPV and PD during this time period may lead to long-term health consequences.Methods: Data from the Relationship Dynamics and Social Life study, a longitudinal study of a racially and socioeconomically diverse population-representative random sample of 726 partnered women, aged 18-19, residing in a Michigan county, and followed for 2.5 years, were used to investigate the relationship between IPV and PD. Logistic regression models predicted each measure of PD (depression, stress, loneliness, self-esteem) as a function of past IPV (none, psychological violence only, any physical violence), and multinomial logistic regression models predicted subsequent weekly IPV as a function of each measure of PD.Results: PD and IPV were prevalent among emerging adult women. Past psychological IPV was associated with experiencing all four distress measures. Past physical IPV was also associated with depression, stress, and loneliness, but not self-esteem. Women with each PD were more likely to subsequently experience psychological violence, and women who reported stress were more likely to subsequently experience any physical violence.Conclusions: The IPV-PD relationship is bidirectional. Women who experienced past IPV were more likely to report PD. Conversely, women who experienced PD were at a greater risk of subsequent IPV.