Long-term impact of family arguments and physical violence on adult functioning at age 30 years: findings from the simmons longitudinal study

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2009 Mar;48(3):290-298. doi: 10.1097/CHI.0b013e3181948fdd.


Objective: To prospectively examine the extent to which an increase in family arguments by age 15 years and the occurrence of family physical violence by age 18 years are related to deficits in key domains of adult functioning at age 30 years.

Method: The 346 participants were part of a single-age cohort from a predominately white working-class community whose psychosocial development has been traced since age 5 years. Family arguments and violence were assessed through self-reports during adolescence. Developmentally relevant areas of current adult functioning were measured by self-reports, structured diagnostic interviews, and clinical interviewer ratings.

Results: Both family arguments and physical violence were significantly related to compromised functioning across multiple areas of adult functioning. Although many associations were somewhat attenuated after controlling for sex, other early family adversities, and family history of disorder, most relations retained statistical significance. Both risk factors were linked with later mental health problems and deficits in psychological and occupational/career functioning. Family violence was also linked to poorer physical health at age 30 years.

Conclusions: Findings underscore the potential long-term impact of troubled family interactions and highlight the critical importance of early intervention programs for youths experiencing either verbal conflict or physical violence in the home.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Domestic Violence / psychology*
  • Domestic Violence / statistics & numerical data
  • Family Conflict / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • New England
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Personality Development*
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Adjustment*
  • Social Environment
  • Young Adult