Methods: We used data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a population-based birth cohort of children born between 1998 and 2000 across 20 large U.S. cities. Mothers and fathers were interviewed at the time of the child’s birth; we focus on two follow-up waves of data when the child was aged 1 and 3 years. The analytic sample (n=2,257) included biological fathers of children who had been in a romantic relationship with the mother. IPV perpetration – physical, sexual, psychological, and economic – by the father at year 1 and year 3 was measured by maternal report. Fathers were categorized into: never perpetrators (no IPV at either year), persisters (IPV at both years), desisters (IPV at year 1 only), and emergers (IPV at year 3 only). Fathers’ parenting at year 3 was self-reported and comprised five stimulation activities (e.g., reading books, playing games, telling stories) and use of spanking. Covariates included fathers’ parenting at year 1, child and parental socio-demographic characteristics, poverty status, paternal custody, paternal depression, paternal residential status, and couples’ relationship status and quality. Linear and logistic regression models were used to estimate the adjusted association between change in IPV perpetration from year 1 to year 3 and fathers’ stimulation and spanking at year 3, respectively.
Results: Based on data at year 1 and year 3, 32.8% of fathers never perpetrated IPV, 35.8% were persisters, 14.4% were desisters, and 16.9% were emergers. Compared to fathers who never perpetrated IPV, persisters engaged in 1.4 fewer stimulation activities (95% CI: -2.4, -0.5, p = .002) and emergers engaged in 2.2 fewer activities (95% CI: -3.3, -1.2; p < .001). Compared to fathers who never perpetrated IPV, emergers were 25.6% more likely to spank their child (95% CI: 0.9%, 44.1%, p = .04).
Conclusions: Findings suggest that fathers’ use of IPV is related to their parenting behaviors during early childhood. Parenting programs may be beneficial for partner-abusive men to prevent the consequences of violence for young children.