Domestic violence exposure in Colombian adolescents: Pathways to violent and prosocial behavior*


  • *

    This article was edited by the journal's previous editor, Dean G. Kilpatrick

  • The current article was based on the first author's doctoral dissertation under the supervision of the second author. We thank the National Program for Social and Human Sciences at Colciencias, Colombia, and The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB; Washington, DC) for financing this study. We also thank Dr. José M. Maya, Dr. Yolanda Torres de Galvis, and participating researchers at the Instituto de Ciencias de la Salud–CES in Medellín, Colombia, who designed and conducted the previous study in 2000.


Associations between domestic violence exposure and violent and prosocial behavior were tested in a sample of Colombian adolescents, with attention to impulsivity and substance use problems as mediators of these associations. A representative sample of 1,152 school youths and a convenience group of 148 juvenile offenders aged 11–19 years participated. Results using structural equation modeling showed indirect effects of impulsivity and substance use problems between family violence (i.e., exposure to interparental violence) and violent behavior. Maltreatment (i.e., harsh parenting) was directly associated with violent behavior, though impulsivity and substance use problems also mediated this relation. Maltreatment directly and inversely contributed to prosocial behavior but there was no evidence of mediation. Results are discussed in terms of cognitive and behavioral factors that explain violent and prosocial behavior among Colombian youths. Limitations and implications for prevention are described.