Predictors of violence against children in Tamil families in northern Sri Lanka.


Children living in post-conflict settings are not only at high risk of developing war-related psychopathology but also of experiencing maltreatment within their families. However, little is known about the mechanisms of the relationship between war and family violence. In order to investigate the variables associated with the experience and perpetration of child maltreatment, we conducted a two-generational study with Tamil families in the North of Sri Lanka, a region affected by war and Tsunami. We interviewed children and the corresponding family dyads and triads with 359 children, 122 mothers, and 88 fathers on the basis of standardized questionnaires to assess their exposure to adverse life experiences and mental health symptoms. Using multivariate regression analyses, we found that the strongest predictors for children’s report of victimization were children’s exposure to mass trauma and child psychopathology. Mothers’ experiences of mass trauma, family violence and partner violence were each significantly related to mother-reported maternal perpetration as well as child-reported victimization. Likewise, all types of traumatic events reported by fathers were significantly related to child-reported victimization and father-reported perpetration. Fathers’ alcohol use was the strongest predictor of father-reported paternal perpetration. These findings provide further support for the transmission of mass trauma into family violence, and emphasize the role of child psychopathology as well as alcohol consumption in this relationship.