Mother–Child Language Style Predicts Internalizing Behaviors in Children Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence

Kara A. Cochran*, G. Anne Bogat, Alytia A. Levendosky, Amy K. Nuttall, Georgia Bayerl, Cecilia Martinez-Torteya

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV) is associated with children’s internalizing and externalizing problems. IPV is thought to impair mothers’ ability to scaffold young children’s emotion regulation through coregulated interactions. Mother–child language style matching (LSM) is an index of coregulation that has yet to be examined in IPV-exposed samples. We hypothesized that LSM would mediate the association between IPV and children’s behavioral problems. Participants were 194 mother–child dyads. IPV was assessed annually when children were ages 1–4. LSM was derived from speech during a free-play interaction at age 4, and children’s behavior problems were assessed concurrently and again at age 10. Chronic IPV exposure in early life was associated with lower levels of mother–child LSM. LSM also mediated the association between IPV and later internalizing problems. These findings provide evidence that mother–child LSM may be a useful index of parent–child interaction quality in the context of IPV.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-93
Number of pages22
JournalMerrill-Palmer Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Support for this research was provided by grants and research awards from the National Institute of Justice (8‐7958‐MI‐IJ), Centers for Disease Control (R49/CCR/518519‐03‐1), Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation (1388.II, 2008), the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychological Foundation/ COGDOP, Michigan State University, and the Society for Research in Child Development.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by Wayne State University Press, Detroit, MI 48201.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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