The 21st Century Crisis of Intimate Partner Violence: The K-12/Bullying Connection

First Presenter's Institution

Albany State University

Second Presenter's Institution


Third Presenter's Institution


Fourth Presenter's Institution


Fifth Presenter's Institution



Session 2 (Verelst)

Strand #1

Safety & Violence Prevention

Strand #2

Social & Emotional Skills


One possible risk factor for bullying is exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV). It is estimated that between 3.3 and 10 million children in the United States witness IPV in their homes annually. On the basis of theories of social learning and emotional dysregulation, children who are exposed to IPV in their homes can be at particular risk for learning negative relationship patterns. Through their early experiences with primary caregivers and siblings, children learn rules of relationships and begin to construct their views of the world. IPV is defined as physical, emotional, or sexual acts of aggression (actual or perceived) between two partners that occur repetitively with the intent to harm. Exposure to IPV can influence a child’s perception of violence as an acceptable method of resolving conflict.

Children who are exposed to IPV exhibit both internalizing (depression, self-esteem) issues and externalizing (physical aggression) behavior problems that impact their peer relationships at home and in the school environment.

Bullying is defined as conscious, repeated acts of physical, verbal (eg, name-calling), or relational (eg, social exclusion, spreading rumors) aggression that causes injury or discomfort to the target between children of differing physical size and strength. Childhood bullying and victimization are serious problems that can threaten a child’s socioemotional development. Bullies, victims, and bully-victims are at risk for a variety of psychological, peer, and school problems. Victims also are at increased risk for suicide and school violence.

Bullying behaviors can emerge as early as elementary school age and usually peak during middle school. A large US study found that 11% of children in grades 6 to 10 bullied others “sometimes,” with an additional 9% bullying more frequently. Former victims were more likely to have poorer self-esteem and experience depression at age 23; likewise, 70% of bullies who were identified in seventh and ninth grades were involved in criminal activity by age 24. Identification of predisposing factors in the home and environment (eg, school climate) can lead to timely identification of at-risk children and provide the basis for targeted interventions. Thus the strands to be addressed include “hearts” (fostering social and emotional skills and the social climate for all youth) and “hands” (promoting safety and preventing violence on the behalf of all children and youth).

Brief Program Description

This presentation will address the connection between IPV and bullying, the number one discipline problem reported within school systems. Discussion will include an examination of theoretical frameworks, the precursors and dynamics of IPV specific to at-risk and aggressive childhood behaviors and evidence-based micro, mezzo and macro interventions that can be implemented within the K-12 educational environment by staff and administrators.


Behaviors such as bullying and intimate partner violence perpetration often share many common causes and those behaviors manifest in two of the most crucial environments in the lives of youth and adolescents, the home and the school. The school climate refers to the social and working relationships of staff and administrators. The climate of a school affects its culture, the belief system and the manner in which tasks are accomplished. School climate is important when assessing bullying and has a direct link to the rate of victimization within a school. Thus, as the problem of bullying is addressed, there are many pieces to the school’s climate that should be considered also: the culture within the school, staff/student relationships, student/peer relationships, parental involvement and student perceptions. Assessing a school’s culture will present with differences for many reasons and their interventions should be tailored to and reflect these differences. Additionally, intervening on those specified determinants before children and youth display bullying or intimate partner violence behaviors might be useful for preventing both behaviors via interpersonal violence or dating violence prevention activities.

A micro intervention could help a bully learn self-control or to cultivate empathy, reducing the later risk of aggressive behavior. Designing such interventions would be to refine an understanding of the motivations for bullying behavior

For example, to address the relationship between bullying and teen dating violence, school interventions should focus on preventing bullying, aggression and sexual harassment, which are precursors to intimate partner violence. Moreover, legislation (macro) may help to promote awareness of teen dating violence and abuse.

Furthermore, potential programs that seek to reduce bullying peers during school may also be effective avenues to reduce future violence perpetration within intimate partner relationships by focusing on the reduction of abusive behaviors and the promotion of equitable attitudes across settings, life stages, and relationships.

Healthy, respectful, nonviolent relationships can be promoted by addressing change at all levels of the social ecology that influence IPV/Bullying: individual, relationship, community, and society. Additionally, effective prevention efforts will reduce known risk factors for IPV and promote healthy relationships: complex solutions for complex problems.


Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a public health problem that can result in physical injury, psychological trauma and even death. An estimated 10 million U.S. children are exposed to IPV each year, and research shows that children who witness such violence are at an increased risk for mental, physical, behavioral, social, and developmental impairment including bullying. While the magnitude and types of bullying can vary across communities and demographic groups, bullying is and negatively impacts all youth involved.

IPV and bullying are associated with several risk and protective factors. Research indicates a number of factors increase risk for perpetration and victimization of both issues which have a long lasting impact on children and youth and a number of factors provide protective measures.

Fostering expectations for healthy relationships and teaching healthy relationship skills are critical to a primary prevention approach to the problem of IPV. The evidence suggests that acceptance of partner violence, poor emotional regulation and conflict management, and poor communication skills put individuals at risk for both perpetration and victimization of IPV. Previous research also shows that strengthening social-emotional, conflict management, and communication skills can also reduce substance abuse, sexual risk behaviors, sexual violence, delinquency, bullying and other forms of peer violence. Successful programs not only teach skills for safe and healthy relationships but also offer multiple opportunities to practice and reinforce these skills. Although typically implemented with adolescent populations in school-based settings, some approaches and skills may also be useful with young adults.

The current evidence suggests that social-emotional programs for youth and relationship skills programs for adult couples can prevent IPV perpetration and victimization. One program with evidence of effectiveness is Safe Dates, which is a school-based program focused on the promotion of healthy relationships and the prevention of TDV (teen dating violence). Originally developed for 8th and 9th graders, the program offers opportunities for students to learn and practice skills related to conflict resolution, positive communication, and managing anger. The program includes 10 classroom sessions, which provide many opportunities for role play and skill practice, a play presented to the entire school, and a poster contest. Safe Dates was evaluated in a randomized controlled trial and found to reduce both perpetration and victimization of physical and sexual dating violence, and results were sustained at four-year follow-up, into late-adolescence. Students exposed to the program reported between 56% and 92% less perpetration and victimization, respectively, at four-year follow-up when compared to control students, and program effects were consistent across gender, race, and baseline experience with TDV. Students exposed to Safe Dates also reported a 12% reduction in peer violence victimization and a 31% reduction in weapon carrying at one-year follow-up compared to controls, demonstrating its effects on other violence outcomes associated with TDV.

Findings from several longitudinal studies indicate that many of the factors associated with perpetrating violence against intimate partners are evident well before adolescence. These factors include poor behavioral control; social problem solving deficits; early onset of drug and alcohol use; an arrest prior to the age of 13; and involvement with antisocial peers, crime and violence. Findings from these studies also point to academic problems, exposure to chronic stress and adverse experiences such as child abuse and neglect, witnessing violence in the home and community, and parental substance abuse, depression, criminality, and incarceration. Negative parenting behaviors (e.g., poor communication between family members, harsh and inconsistent discipline, poor parental monitoring and supervision, poor parent child boundaries) and family environments that are unstable, stressful, and that lack structure are also risk factors for perpetration of TDV in adolescence and continued perpetration into adulthood. Approaches that can disrupt these developmental risks and pathways have the potential to reduce IPV.

Additionally, a few protective factors have been identified that are associated with lower chances of perpetrating or experiencing TDV. These include high empathy, good grades, high verbal IQ, a positive relationship with one’s mother, and attachment to school.

The different forms of violence often share the same individual, relationship, community, and societal risks and include thoseareas that have been identified as lacking support: the home, the school and the community. According to research and subject experts, policy options can prevent and address teen dating violence and childhood exposure to domestic violence. For example, setting school policies that foster a safe, supportive environment and promote student engagement in school are linked to lower levels of violence.


Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

  1. Dr. Irma J. Gibson is an Associate Professor at Albany State University and an International Professor in Trinidad and Tobago. She is a speaker, writer, author and an advocate in the area of Child and Family Welfare and youth who are at risk. She entered into academia after 22 years of clinical and administrative practice with the federal government, nationally and internationally, serving various populations including children and families, the homeless, those suffering from addiction and mental health challenges including post-traumatic stress disorder, active duty military and veterans of the armed services and their families.

Keyword Descriptors

Bullying, intimate partner violence, teen dating violence, social learning theory

Presentation Year


Start Date

3-4-2019 1:15 PM

End Date

3-4-2019 2:30 PM

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Mar 4th, 1:15 PM Mar 4th, 2:30 PM

The 21st Century Crisis of Intimate Partner Violence: The K-12/Bullying Connection

Session 2 (Verelst)

This presentation will address the connection between IPV and bullying, the number one discipline problem reported within school systems. Discussion will include an examination of theoretical frameworks, the precursors and dynamics of IPV specific to at-risk and aggressive childhood behaviors and evidence-based micro, mezzo and macro interventions that can be implemented within the K-12 educational environment by staff and administrators.