Each year, an estimated 3 to 10 million children witness assaults against a parent by an intimate partner.(Straus, 1992) Domestic violence does not discriminate across lines of race, culture, nationality or gender. It occurs at the same rate in both homosexual and heterosexual relationships (Mills et al., 2000). The experience of family violence can be among the most disturbing for children because both victims and aggressors are the adults who care for them and who are most closely attached to them. For many of these children, violence interrupts their experience of consistent safety and care, and creates an environment of uncertainty and helplessness.
Children who are exposed to domestic violence, especially repeated incidents of violence, are at risk for many difficulties, both immediately and in the future. These include problems with sleeping, eating and other basic bodily functions; depression, aggressiveness, anxiety and other problems in regulating emotions; difficulties with family and peer relationships; and problems with attention, concentration and school performance.
Research also shows that parents who are violent with one another are at a higher risk for physically abusing their children.(Straus, 1992) An alarming fact is that domestic violence has been found to be the single most common precursor to child death in the United States. (Mills et al., 2000) Children exposed to domestic violence are also at risk to repeat their experience in the next generation, either as victims or perpetrators of violence in their own intimate relationships. Despite these serious risks, a small percentage of children exposed to family violence are not as severely affected later on in life. It is important to remember that individual children’s responses are dependent on many factors within the child, the family and the environment. (Hughes, Graham-Bermann, & Gruber, 2001)
In order to minimize the risk of long-term damage, child witnesses to domestic violence need the safety and security of their environment to be restored. Children exposed to domestic violence also need support from the adults around them, most importantly their own parents or other primary caregivers.
Interventions that help children are usually those that help parents to increase their own safety and to increase the resources available to provide safety for their children. Child abuse, youth violence and domestic violence are inextricably interwoven. The presence of domestic violence in a child’s life not only hurts the child, it has reaching effects on all of society. Community based interventions may be the best hope for families in our society struggling with violence in their homes. Early education on the subject can help prevent the cycle of domestic violence from continuing.
Health care workers, law enforcement officers, educators, domestic abuse and child welfare organization workers all play overlapping roles in the prevention and intervention of cases of harmful domestic violence. (Jaffe, Baker, & Cunningham, 2004) If you know a child that has been exposed to domestic violence or if you are living with domestic violence, there is help available. People from nearly all parts of the country have access to domestic violence crisis hotlines, shelters and counseling. Please see below for links to organizations committed to preventing domestic violence.
Early childhood, domestic violence, and poverty. Paper Series. School of Social Work , University of Iowa . Susan Schechter and Jane Knitzer, eds. pdf
Children exposed to intimate partner violence. National Resource Center on Domestic Violence. March 2002. pdf
Helping Children Exposed to Domestic Violence: Law Enforcement and Community Partnerships. 2000. pdf
Identifying and responding to domestic violence: recommendations for child and adolescent health. Family Violence Prevention Fund, September 2002. pdf
The Military Response to Victims of Domestic Violence: Tools for Civilian Advocates. Judith Beals, The Battered Women’s Justice Project. June 2003. pdf
Preventing Family Violence: Community Engagement Makes the Difference. Family Violence Prevention Fund, September 2002. pdf
Workshop on Children Exposed to Violence: Current Status, Gaps and Research. 2002 pdf
For more resources, see:
Domestic Violence in the Context of Children Exposed to Violence: a Resource Guide. NCCEV, August 2003. Revised June 2004.
The batterer as parent: addressing the impact of domestic violence on family dynamics. Lundy Bancroft, Jay G. Silverman. Thousand Oaks , Calif. : Sage Publications, c2002.
Child custody and domestic violence: a call for safety and accountability. Peter Jaffe, Nancy Lemon, Samantha Poisson. London : Sage Publications, 2002
Childhood experiences of domestic violence. Caroline McGee. London ; Philadelphia : Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2000.
Children exposed to domestic violence: current issues in research, intervention, prevention, and policy development. Robert A. Geffner, Peter G. Jaffe, Marlies Sudermann, eds. London : Haworth Maltreatment & Trauma Press, 2000.
Children exposed to domestic violence handbooks. London Family Court Clinic.
Children who see too much: lessons from the Child Witness to Violence project. Betsy McAlister Groves. Boston : Beacon Press, 2002.
Children's perspectives on domestic violence. Audrey Mullender. London : Sage Publications, 2002.
Domestic violence in the lives of children: the future of research, intervention, and social policy. Sandra A. Graham-Bermann and Jeffrey L. Edleson, eds. Washington , D.C. : American Psychological Association, 2001.
From child sexual abuse to adult sexual risk: Trauma, revictimization, and intervention. Koenig, Linda J. (Ed); Doll, Lynda S. (Ed); O'Leary, Ann (Ed); Pequegnat, Willo (Ed). Washington , DC , US : American Psychological Association. (2004). xv, 346pp.
Health consequences of abuse in the family: A clinical guide for evidence-based practice. Kendall-Tackett, Kathleen A. (Ed). Washington , DC , US : American Psychological Association. (2004). xiii, 289pp.
Protecting Children from Domestic Violence: Strategies from Domestic Violence: strategies for community intervention. Peter G. Jaffe, Linda L. Baker, and Alison J. Cunningham. New York : Guilford Press, 2004
Violence in the home: multidisciplinary perspectives. Karel Kurst-Swanger, Jacqueline L. Petcosky. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2003.
Barabash, Kenneth John. Developmental filial therapy: Process-outcome research on strengthening child-parent relationships through play in a setting for victims of domestic violence. [Dissertation Abstract] Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: the Sciences & Engineering. Vol 64(7-B), 2004, 3513, US: Univ Microfilms International.
Holland , Patrick; Gorey, Kevin M. Historical, Developmental, and Behavioral Factors Associated with Foster Care Challenges. [Peer Reviewed Journal] Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal. Vol 21(2) Apr 2004 , 117-135.
Zeanah, Charles H; Fox, Nathan A. Temperament and Attachment Disorders. [Peer Reviewed Journal] Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology. Vol 33(1) Feb 2004 , 32-41.
Thomas, Lisa A; De Bellis, Michael D. Pituitary volumes in pediatric maltreatment-related posttraumatic stress disorder. [Peer Reviewed Journal] Biological Psychiatry. Vol 55(7) Apr 2004 , 752-758.
Rogosch, Fred A; Cicchetti, Dante. Child Maltreatment and Emergent Personality Organization: Perspectives From the Five-Factor Model. [Peer Reviewed Journal] Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. Vol 32(2) Apr 2004 , 123-145.
Gagne, Marie-Helene; Bouchard, Camil. Family Dynamics Associated With the Use of Psychologically Violent Parental Practices. [Peer Reviewed Journal] Journal of Family Violence. Vol 19(2) Apr 2004 , 117-130.
Guterman, Neil B. Advancing prevention research on child abuse, youth violence, and domestic violence: Emerging strategies and issues. [Peer Reviewed Journal] Journal of Interpersonal Violence. Vol 19(3) Mar 2004 , 299-321.
Daro, Deborah; Edleson, Jeffrey L; Pinderhughes, Howard. Finding common ground in the study of child maltreatment, youth violence, and adult domestic violence. [Peer Reviewed Journal] Journal of Interpersonal Violence. Vol 19(3) Mar 2004 , 282-298.
Guille, Lara. Men who batter and their children: An integrated review. [Peer Reviewed Journal] Aggression & Violent Behavior. Vol 9(2) Mar-Apr 2004, 129-163.
Ryan , Virginia . Adapting Non-directive Play Therapy for Children with Attachment Disorders. [Peer Reviewed Journal] Clinical Child Psychology & Psychiatry. Vol 9(1) Jan 2004 , 75-87.
Eigsti, Inge-Marie; Cicchetti, Dante. The impact of child maltreatment on expressive syntax at 60 months. [Peer Reviewed Journal] Developmental Science. Vol 7(1) Feb 2004 , 88-102.
Jaffee, Sara R; Caspi, Avshalom; Moffitt, Terrie E; Taylor, Alan. Physical Maltreatment Victim to Antisocial Child: Evidence of an Environmentally Mediated Process. [Peer Reviewed Journal] Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Vol 113(1) Feb 2004 , 44-55.
Leifer, Myra ; Kilbane, Teresa; Kalick, Sarah. Vulnerability or resilience to intergenerational sexual abuse: The role of maternal factors. [Peer Reviewed Journal] Child Maltreatment. Vol 9(1) Feb 2004 , 78-91.
Sternberg, Kathleen J; Knutson, John F; Lamb, Michael E; Baradaran, Laila P; Nolan, Catherine M; Flanzer, Sally. The Child Maltreatment Log: A computer-based program for describing research samples. [Peer Reviewed Journal] Child Maltreatment. Vol 9(1) Feb 2004 , 30-48.
Koenig, Amy L; Cicchetti, Dante; Rogosch, Fred A. Moral development: The association between maltreatment and young children's prosocial behaviors and moral transgressions. [Peer Reviewed Journal] Social Development. Vol 13(1) 2004, 97-106.
Dombrowski, Stefan C; LeMasney, John W; Ahia, C. Emmanuel; Dickson, Shannon A. Protecting Children From Online Sexual Predators: Technological, Psychoeducational, and Legal Considerations. [Peer Reviewed Journal] Professional Psychology - Research & Practice. Vol 35(1) Feb 2004 , 65-73.
Bal, Sarah; De Bourdeaudhuij, Ilse; Crombez, Geert; Van Oost, Paulette. Differences in trauma symptoms and family functioning in intra- and extra familial sexually abused adolescents. [Peer Reviewed Journal] Journal of Interpersonal Violence. Vol 19(1) Jan 2004 , 108-123.
Little, Liza. Victimization of children with disabilities. [Chapter] Kendall-Tackett, Kathleen A. (Ed). (2004). Health consequences of abuse in the family: A clinical guide for evidence-based practice. Application and practice in health psychology. (pp. 95-108). Washington , DC , US : American Psychological Association. xiii, 289pp.
Edwards, Valerie J; Anda, Robert F; Felitti, Vincent J; Dube, Shanta R. Adverse childhood experiences and health-related quality of life as an adult. [Chapter] Kendall-Tackett, Kathleen A. (Ed). (2004). Health consequences of abuse in the family: A clinical guide for evidence-based practice. Application and practice in health psychology. (pp. 81-94). Washington , DC , US : American Psychological Association. xiii, 289pp.
Pennebacker, James W; Stone, Lori D. Translating traumatic experiences into language: Implications for child abuse and long-term health. [Chapter] Koenig, Linda J. (Ed); Doll, Lynda S. (Ed); et al. (2004). From child sexual abuse to adult sexual risk: Trauma, revictimization, and intervention. (pp. 201-216). Washington , DC , US : American Psychological Association. xv, 346pp.