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Cases of domestic violence have increased significantly; the main victims of these violence cases are young children. Most of the children are either directly involved or perhaps witness the violence. Studies carried out by many scholars have revealed shocking findings on the children witnessing domestic violence. The studies described explicitly on the childhood problems related with domestic violence and controlling factors within the child which catalyzes or reduce the problems (Edleson 1).
Children who have witnessed domestic violence in their lives depicted unique and abnormal traits in their spheres of their life. Edleson (1999) grouped the child’s problems into three categories: ‘behavioral and emotional, cognitive functioning and attitudes, and long-term effect’ (1). The studies indicated that the Child’s emotion and behaviors is greatly affected when they are exposed or witness domestic violence. The child becomes antisocial and hostile and fearful to people; this is because the child is traumatized and feels unsecured in the society. Further studies have also revealed that the victims develop weak immune system and therefore becoming more vulnerable to communicable diseases which generally affect their studies (Jaffe 97). In extreme cases, the child suffers depression and nervousness and develops low self esteem, poor sense of feeling or unable to understand and assess other people’s situations. Most shockingly, boys who witness physical violence by use of crude weapons by their parents in their homes portray lower competences and self-control levels and some of them are not able to associate well with their peers. Intriguing findings also disclose that some of these children who witness domestic violence tend to practice the same in their adulthood (Edleson 1).
Many researches done have also revealed that children witnessing violence, perhaps, is the cause of cognitive and emotional difficulties (Golden et al. 21). They asserted that the more a child is exposed to adult violence the more likely that she/he will have depression in older age. Besides, when children reach adolescent age they become more violent and also develop attitudes which support their violent behavior. Edleson (2007), cited research carried out by Bowen which demonstrated that adolescent boys convicted of violence believed that being violent improved their image and reputation in the society (2). However, when both genders were compared it was found that girls were less likely to justify violence than boys in the same situation.
Surprisingly, the domestic violence has a long term effect to the child. Children tend to learn from the violence in their homes and when they become of age and start raising their own children they practice the same behavior (Golden et al. 23). Reports also reveal that women who experienced abuse in their childhood exhibited depression and symptoms of trauma; others had lower self-esteem; while men only exhibited trauma associated symptoms.
Similarly, children are affected differently when exposed to domestic violence; this kind of variation in children is caused by several factors namely: whether the child is directly abused or they witnessed abuse, characteristics of the child, the time span that a child is exposed to violence and the relationship between the child and the parents. The children who were directly abused and also witnessed abuse in there homes were severely affected than those who only witnessed abuse. Edleson (2007) agreed that those children who both witnessed and were abused developed a lot of problem as compared to those who only witnessed abuse (2).
Boys and girls also suffer differently to domestic violence; this can be distinguished from the different behaviors they portray after the abuse. Boys are though to be affected ‘externally’ and as a result, they become more hostile and aggressive. On the other hand girls are affected more internally and therefore, they experience problems such as ‘depression and somantic complains’ (Edleson 3). However, some researchers have disagreed with these findings and they state that some women possess aggressive behaviors especially when they grow old. The time span of exposure to domestic violence has also revealed some interesting results. Children who have been exposed to abuse for a longer period of time have exhibited less adversely affected as compared to those who have been exposed for a short period of time.
Researchers have had conflicting opinions on the contribution of parent-child relationship to the way children react to domestic violence. Some view that, children are more attached to their violent fathers. However, the children express disgust and resentment over their abusive conduct of their fathers. Others are of the opinion that children going through domestic violence are adversely affected if their mother is not mentally stable (Edleson 3). As well, other researches suggested that mother’s mental state do not have any potential impact to the child response to abuse.
However, some people have cast doubts on the accuracy of the findings of many researches done on domestic violence. They expressed dissatisfaction on the methodology used to carry out the research. Especially, the use of information from adults only which may not express the feelings of the children; children should be allowed to state their experiences themselves (Hester 68). There is also the problem of researchers not being able to recognize the difference between the abused children from those who have not directly been victims of abuse but have witnessed activities of abuse. Edleson (2007) suggested that researchers must be keen not to quickly believe that witnessing violence invariably results to severe effects for children (4). In addition, some researchers make use of information from victims still mentally traumatized and not stable enough to provide accurate information. Finally, other over-dependency on single source and also use of correlation should be taken with great care.
In conclusion, domestic violence is a great disaster to the families and society at large. Children bear the largest brunt of this violence. Children who witness domestic violence in their families and those who are directly abused suffer adversely. However, the effects of these two situations to children are not all the same; children who are directly abused suffer a lot more than the children who only witnessed violence. There is also disparity in the way both boys and girls respond to abusive behavior by their parents. Girls are internally affected while the boys are externally affected.
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