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Domestic violence effects on children's

Introduction to Domestic Violence

Domestic violence occurs when one person tries to dominate and control another person in a family like or domestic relationship. domestic violence involves an abuse of power and can take a form of:
  • physical violence
  • sexual violence
  • emotional or psychological abuse
  • verbal abuse
  • stalking and intimidation
  • social and geographic isolation
  • financial abuse
  • cruelty to pets
  • damage to property
  • threats to be violent in these ways.
Domestic violence usually features a repeating pattern of behaviour with the dominant purpose of controlling the other person. The major impact is fear. Domestic violence is predominately perpetrated by men against women. However, women can be perpetrators of violence in both heterosexual and LGBTIQ relationships. Forced marriage, when a person gets married without freely consenting because they have been coerced, threatened or deceived is another form of domestic violence, as is reproductive coercion where control or pressure is used to determine contraception or pregnancy outcomes.

Defining Domestic Violence and Children�s Exposure to Domestic Violence

The term �domestic violence� typically refers to violence between adult intimate partners.
One clinical source defines domestic violence as a pattern of assaultive an coercive behaviors, including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion, that adults or adolescents use against their intimate partners.

By contrast, a model code on domestic and family violence limits its definition to acts of physical harm, including involuntary sexual acts, or the threat of physical harm. Investigators have usually studied children from violent families that are characterized by multiple stressors (e.g., histories of drug and alcohol abuse, single parenting, shelter residence, and poverty) and multiple forms of maltreatment (i.e., neglect, sexual abuse, spouse abuse, and child abuse; Aber & Cicchetti, 1984. This study was also designed to identify the distinctive effects of experiencing different types of domestic violence.

Children who are victims of physical abuse are more likely to display externalizing and internalizing behavior problems than children from comparison groups (Aber, Allen, Carlson, & Cicchetti, 1989; Hughes, 1988; Jaffe et al., 1986a, 1986b).

Crimes (Domestic and personal violence) act 2007

Section 9 Objects of Act in relation to domestic violence

In enacting this Act, Parliament recognizes:

  • Domestic violence is predominantly perpetrated by men against women and children
  • Domestic violence extends beyond physical violence and may involve the exploitation of power imbalances and patterns of abuse over many years
  • The particularly vulnerable position of children who are exposed to domestic violence as victims or witnesses, and the impact that such exposure can have on their current and future physical, psychological and emotional well-being, and
  • That domestic violence is best addressed through a co-ordinated legal and social response of assistance and prevention of violence and, in certain cases, may be the subject of appropriate intervention by the court.

Effects of Child Exposure to Domestic Violence

The specific effects may differ depending on a host of variables, such as the children�s ages, the nature and severity of the violence, the existence of other risk factors in the children�s lives (for example, poverty, parental substance abuse), and whether the children are also directly physically abused. In general, childhood exposure to domestic violence can be associated with increased display of aggressive behavior, increased emotional problems such as depression and/or anxiety, lower levels of social competence, and poorer academic functioning. Research to date indicates that children who live in households with domestic violence are at greater risk for maladjustment than are children who do not live with such violence

Children exposed to domestic violence with children from nonviolent homes with respect to one or more aspects of child functioning, including:

  1. externalizing behaviors (such as aggressive behavior and conduct problems);
  2. internalizing behaviors (such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem);
  3. intellectual and academic functioning;
  4. social development (social competencies with peers and adults, for example); and
  5. physical health and development.

Effects of child exposure to domestic violence indicates that this exposure has an adverse impact across a range of child functioning, produces different effects at different ages, increases the risk for child abuse, and is associated with other risk factors such as poverty and parental substance abuse. It doesn't reveal reliable information about the impact of particular types or frequencies of domestic violence on children, or how children with specific characteristics are affected across time.

Numerous studies have documented that even young children are likely to exhibit emotional distress, immature behaviour, somatic complaints and regression in toilets and language (Bell, 1995; Drell et al.,1993; Jaffe et al., 1990; Margolin,1995).

Impact of exposure to domestic violence on child functioning

Differences across groups in these behaviors revealed that children exposed to domestic violence tended to be more aggressive and to exhibit behavior problems in their schools and communities ranging from temper tantrums to fights. Internalizing behavior problems included depression, suicidal behaviors, anxiety, fears, phobias, insomnia, tics, bed-wetting, and low self-esteem.

The few studies that assessed problems related to cognitive and academic functioning found differences between children from violent, versus nonviolent, homes. Children exposed to domestic violence demonstrated impaired ability to concentrate, difficulty in their schoolwork, and significantly lower scores on measures of verbal, motor, and cognitive skills.

Children may not always observe the violence (and in many instances the abuse is manifested in psychological and controlling behaviour by the perpetrator) but they are still aware that the abuse is happening (�verlien and Hyd�n 2009;Swanston et al., 2014). At the most basic level, living in an emotionally charged and violent household has negative implications for children�s emotional and mental health in both the immediate and longer term (Kitzman et al., 2003;Wolfe et al., 2003; Evans et al., 2008).

Age Span Differences

In infants from homes with partner abuse, the child's needs for attachment may be disrupted. More than 50 percent of these infants cry excessively and have eating and sleeping problems.
Infants are also at a significantly increased risk for physical injury Preschool-aged children who witness intimate violence may develop a range of problems, including psychosomatic complaints such as headaches and abdominal pain. They also can display regressive behaviors such as enuresis, thumb sucking, and sleep disturbances.

During the preschool years, children turn to their parents for protection and stability, but these needs are often disrupted in families with partner abuse. Increased anxiety around strangers and behaviors such as whining, crying, and clinging may occur. Nighttime problems such as insomnia and parasomnias are more frequent in this age group. Children in this age group who have witnessed domestic violence also may show signs of terror, manifested by yelling, irritability, hiding, and stuttering.

School-aged children also can develop a range of problems including psychosomatic complaints, such as headaches or abdominal pain, as well as poor school performance. They are less likely to have many friends or participate in outside activities. Witnessing partner abuse can undermine their sense of self-esteem and their confidence in the future. School-aged children also are more likely to experience guilt and shame about the abuse, and they tend to blame themselves.

Adolescent witnesses have higher rates of interpersonal problems with other family members, especially interparental (parent-child) conflict. They are more likely to have a fatalistic view of the future resulting in an increased rate of risk taking and antisocial behavior, such as school truancy, early sexual activity, substance abuse, and delinquency.

Ways to help the children
Arranging school age children to receive counseling from professionals at their school, often school counselors.

Experimenting with various types of counseling: play therapy, peer support groups, anger management classes, and safety programs to teach kids how to extract themselves from dangerous situations.

Finding a loving and supportive adult to introduce to the child and encourage the child to spend as much time regularly with the adult. This may include a trusted family member or community advocate.

Providing a safe environment that does not include violence in any form after a child has witnessed domestic violence.

Finding ways to discipline that do not involve hitting, name-calling, yelling or any form of verbally aggressive behaviour.

Helping children create a sense of safety by having scheduled routines, such as regular meals and homework times.

Increased public and professional awareness that domestic violence should not be tolerated, there is also some evidence to show that domestic violence has one of the highest rates of recidivism.

This article has argued that for the significant number of children living with domestic violence, the experience is often traumatic and the consequences in both the immediate and longer term are significant for the majority of these children. Children who appear to cope better tend to have strong attachments to a non-violent parent or other significant adult, and to have had the opportunity to engage in therapeutic work sooner rather than later.

This should involve a range of measures including:
  • Clear procedures within organizations for safeguarding the child based on a clear assessment of the child�s needs, their parents� capacity to provide for these needs and any wider environmental or family factors that may impact on the home situation
  • Agreed inter-agency procedures for working with the child, the victim and the perpetrator of the abuse
  • The provision of therapeutic support services to the child and adult victim
  • A response that aims to work with perpetrators to get them to take responsibility for their behaviour and the impact it has on others
  • A range of services that are tailored to the specific needs of perpetrators based on their ability to engage and willingness to change.
  • Sternberg, K. J., Lamb, M. E., Greenbaum, C., Cicchetti, D., Dawud, S., Cortes, R. M., ... & Lorey, F. (1993). Effects of domestic violence on children's behavior problems and depression. Developmental psychology, 29(1), 44.
  • Devaney, J. (2015). Research Review: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children. Irish probation journal, 12.
  • Osofsky, J. D. (1999). The impact of violence on children. The future of children, 33-49.
  • Osofsky, J. D. (1995). Children who witness domestic violence: The invisible victims. Social Policy Report, 9(3), 1-20.
  • Fantuzzo, J. W., & Mohr, W. K. (1999). Prevalence and effects of child exposure to domestic violence. The future of children, 21-32.
  • Stiles, M. (2002). Witnessing domestic violence: The effect on children. American Family Physician, 66(11), 2052.

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Shivani Chiragbhai Jani - from National Forensic Sciences University Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India
Awarded certificate of Excellence
Authentication No: AP111674343523-26-0421

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