As human beings, we are connected in ways we don’t always realize—especially within our family units. We like to tell ourselves that we alone pay the price for our mistakes, but those mistakes can potentially make a deep impact on the people we love. To give an uncomfortable example, a growing body of research strongly suggests domestic violence can be passed down generationally. In other words, children who are exposed to domestic violence have an increased likelihood of repeating the pattern in adulthood.
The Urban Child Institute summarizes the issue plainly. “Children who witness domestic violence grow up to have a greater risk of living in violent relationships themselves, whether as victims or as perpetrators,” they say. “Without more awareness of this problem and help for these families, the burden of domestic violence will continue to be passed from one generation to the next.”
This phenomenon, commonly called “intergenerational transmission of domestic violence,” extends beyond just a few isolated cases. In just one of many studies on this issue, the results were nothing short of disturbing. In compiling data from 1600 American families, researchers found that four out of five children living with domestically violent partners eventually committed violence against their own partners as adults. Likewise, three-quarters of adult children also became victims.