Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Young men's intimate partner violence and relationship functioning: long-term outcomes associated with suicide attempt and aggression in adolescence

D. C. R. Kerra1a2 c1 and D. M. Capaldia2

a1 Oregon State University, Psychology Department, Corvallis, Oregon, USA

a2 Oregon Social Learning Center, Eugene, Oregon, USA


Background Longitudinal research supports that suicidal thoughts and behaviors in adolescence predict maladjustment in young adulthood. Prior research supports links between suicide attempt and aggression, perhaps because of a propensity for impulsive behavior in states of high negative affect that underlies both problems. Such vulnerability may increase risk for intimate partner violence and generally poor young adulthood relational adjustment.

Method A total of 153 men participated in annual assessments from ages 10–32 years and with a romantic partner at three assessments from ages 18–25 years. Multi-method/multi-informant constructs were formed for parent/family risk factors, adolescent psychopathology (e.g. suicide-attempt history, mother-, father-, teacher- and self-reported physical aggression) and young adulthood relational distress (jealousy and low relationship satisfaction) and maladaptive relationship behavior (observed, self- and partner-reported physical and psychological aggression toward a partner, partner-reported injury, official domestic violence arrest records and relationship instability).

Results Across informants, adolescent aggression was correlated with suicide-attempt history. With few exceptions, aggression and a suicide attempt in adolescence each predicted negative romantic relationship outcomes after controlling for measured confounds. Adolescent aggression predicted young adulthood aggression toward a partner, in part, via relationship dissatisfaction.

Conclusions Boys' aggression and suicide-attempt history in adolescence each predict poor relationship outcomes, including partner violence, in young adulthood. Findings are consistent with the theory of a trait-like vulnerability, such as impulsive aggression, that undermines adaptation across multiple domains in adolescence and young adulthood. Prevention and intervention approaches can target common causes of diverse public health problems.

(Received August 21 2009)

(Revised May 03 2010)

(Accepted May 05 2010)

(Online publication June 14 2010)


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr David Kerr, Oregon State University, Psychology Department, Corvallis, OR, USA. (Email: