Examining Perpetration of Physical Violence by Women: The Influence of Childhood Adversity, Victimization, Mental Illness, Substance Abuse, and Anger

Research on women's perpetration of physical violence has focused primarily on partners, often neglecting perpetration against nonpartners. This study proposes a conceptual model with direct and indirect relationships between childhood adversity and different targets of violence (partners and nonpartners), mediated by victimization experiences (by partner and nonpartners), mental illness, substance abuse, and anger. Using survey data from a random sample of incarcerated women (N = 574), structural equation modeling resulted in significant, albeit different, indirect paths from childhood adversity, through victimization, to perpetration of violence against partners (β = .20) and nonpartners (β = .19). The results indicate that prevention of women's violence requires attention to specific forms of victimization, anger expression, and targets of her aggression.