This paper will reveal various research findings of children under the age of six who has witness or has been the victims of domestic violence. Some of the research found will reveal that by witnessing domestic violence in many forms has proven to be very harmful to the children and many of the children has lifetime scars as a result. Many of the findings will indicate that the child’s social, cognitive behavior and physical development has affected the way the child responds in certain situations. This paper will generate awareness that these children can live a productive life if caught in time and the necessary provisions and assistance is provided. Statistics and data will show that there are as many unreported numbers as there are reported numbers of domestic violence in young children. There will be a number of references to show the much research that has been conducted relating to the abuse witnessed by young children and also research to show the increased number of abuse that young children experience from domestic violence.
How Domestic Violence Affect the Lives of Children
This research paper is intended to address issues of abused children and how domestic violence affects their lives in so many different ways. Domestic violence can happen to anyone. Domestic violence is defined as the pattern of abusive and threatening behaviors that may include physical, emotional, economic and sexual violence as well as intimidation, isolation and coercion. There are many ways that children can experience abuse.
Children exposed to overwhelming and potentially traumatic events early in their lives are considered atâ€risk for problems in adjustment. Yet it is not known whether it is the age of first exposure (AFE) to violence or the amount of violence that the child witnessed in their lifetime that has the greatest impact on adjustment. For a sample of 190 children ages 6 to 12 exposed to intimate partner violence, their mothers reported that the average length of their abusive relationship was 10 years. The majority of children were first exposed to family violence as infants at 64 percent, with only 12 percent first exposed when schoolâ€aged. However, in regression analyses controlling for child sex, ethnicity, age, and family environment variables, cumulative violence exposure accounted for greater variance in adjustment than did the age of first exposure. Furthermore, cumulative violence exposure mediated the relationship between the age of first exposure and externalizing behavior problems, indicating that the cumulative exposure to intimate partner violence outweighed the age of first exposure in its effect on child adjustment (Grahamâ€Bermann & Perkins, 2010).
Domestic violence can sometimes go undetected, and can sometimes be missed if it is not visible. Sometimes it can be seen in their actions and how they interact with the other children. Sometimes small children are bitters and they bite as a way of protecting themselves. The statistics above shows that 64 percent of children exposed to violence were in their infancy stage. The child’s character is shaped in their early years by the parent or parents. This is where they receive their first level of education. The children learn to model their parent’s behavior and develop life’s lessons from their parents. So when domestic violence is witnessed in the home, the child learns that manner of behavior as well. Therefore, the child is able to learn violence at an early age. The first year of a child life is the infancy stage. This is the stage when the child shows rapid growth physically, psychologically, socially and developmentally. The child’s brain is developing at an alarming rate and so the child is able to comprehend what is going on around them. They might not know how to explain it, but they know what is going on.
More and more children are witnessing and experiencing domestic violence. Domestic violence does not just happen to poor people, it happens to anybody regardless of the social or economic status. Domestic violence is great among boys, because they feel it gets them what they want. And among the girls, they are at a risk of feeling the violence is normal in relationships. Therefore, as young children, both boys and girls grow up feeling that domestic violence is part of life and to experience it in relationships is normal for them and they expect it from their relationship as they grow up and to some degree it makes them feel like they are in control.
Children experience a wide range of exposure to domestic violence and they always feel that they are somehow responsible for it happening in their homes. They develop a sense of guilt and they experience a great deal of anxiety. Because they do not know how to express how they feel, they sometimes become withdrawn and have a develop sleeping problems and sometimes, especially in small children, might awake from their sleep crying as a result of what they have witnessed relating to domestic violence. 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 (Holt, Buckley, & Whelan, 2008).
Children under the age of 6 years old were at greater risk of direct sensory exposure.
Domestic violence households with children were more likely to be low-income, non-White, and headed by a single female, compared to households at large. Police collected data on the demographic characteristics of the victim, characteristics of the incident, and whether children were present. Results showed that 44 percent of all substantiated domestic violence events had children present. These children were more likely to be from ethnic minority households and 47 percent of them were less than 6 years old (Evans, Davies & DiLillo, 2008).
Childhood exposure to domestic violence appears to produce many of the same developmental consequences, although these are generally less well documented. For example, children exposed to DV have higher than average rates of cognitive, psychological, and emotional impairments (Fantuzzo,& Fusco, 2007). These children are left traumatized because of what they see happening during the course of the violent actions. It leaves some children severely damaged. They are not only witnessing the violence, but they are sometimes the ones that are violated. They feel that they are the ones that cause this to happen and are left feeling void and alone.
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 (Holt, Buckley & Whelan, 2008).
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).
Children who witness domestic violence may have impaired educational attainment as well as facing other challenges such as struggles with self-esteem and forming relationships. Two typical types of responses by children were identified: those who became quiet and withdrawn, and those who became loud and aggressive. There seemed to have been progress in terms of professional understanding and service responses regarding domestic violence, but there seemed to be limited structured cooperation between the professional groups in addressing the effects of domestic violence on children (Byrne & Taylor, 2007). When children are quiet and withdrawn, they tend to bottle everything up inside and after a while they will begin to experience other problems in their lives that will interfere with them socially and physiologically. It is especially bad on a young child because they don’t know how to express themselves and become angry and will sometimes lash out at other children as a means of venting their anger.
Exposed children showed lower verbal functioning and higher internalizing behaviors than did their non-exposed peers (Ybara, Wilkens, & Lieberman, 2007). Children that are bought up in violent homes will sometimes end of hating their parents and develop bad feelings to towards them and will in some instances rebel against them. They start to feel that they have been let down by both parents and as a result of what they have witnessed or experience will believe that they always have to protect themselves and be on their guard to not allow anyone else to harm them and they can become dangerous to themselves and others.
Children were present in nearly 50 percent of the domestic violence events. They were disproportionately present in domestic violence household as compared to all other households in the municipality. Domestic violence households with children were more likely to have mothers and fathers involved in the violence and were disproportionately minority households headed by single females in relatively poor neighborhoods (Fantuzzo, Fusco, Mohr, & Perry, 2007). There are many ways that children can be exposed to domestic violence; they can see it, hear it or suffer domestic violence. They can also be used to do greater harm to the person that has been battered. For instance is a father is beating the mother, the father could demand that the child hit the mother as well. That makes them both batterers.
Domestic violence does not just affect the abused spouse. The children living in the home are as victims as well even if the violence is not aimed directly towards them. Children who are raised in the homes where domestic violence is practiced are 60 percent. They are more likely to get involved in juvenile delinquency and 30 percent more likely to become a perpetrator of abuse when they turn into adults (Martin, 2011, p.292).
More research is also needed that follows children into adulthood to assess the effects of violence on their long-term health and well-being. Such research would complement those studies, such as the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study discussed earlier, that have taken a retrospective look at the effects of adverse childhood experiences. The National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV) findings affirm that more needs to be done to measure children’s exposure to violence on an ongoing and systematic basis using public surveillance mechanisms, including follow-up surveys and long-term monitoring (Kracke & Hahn, 2008).
Nearly one-half (46.3 percent) of all the children surveyed were physically assaulted within the previous year, and more than one-half (56.7 percent) had been assaulted during their lifetime. Physical assaults are extremely common across the entire span of childhood and peak during middle childhood. Assaults by siblings especially show a marked developmental trend, peaking during the middle childhood years (ages 6 to 9) and then declining. Incidence for the most severe assaults, however, rises steadily with age (Finkelhor, Turner, Ormond & Hamby, 2009). This research was very alarming to know that the number of children, youths and adolescents would and have been assaulted in their lifetime. If the child is assaulted during the early stages of their life, it is likely it will follow then throughout their lifetime.
NatSCEV found that witnessing violence was a common occurrence for children, particularly as they grew older. Overall, more than one-quarter of children surveyed (25.3 percent) had witnessed violence in their homes, schools, and communities during the past year; and more than one-third (37.8 percent) had witnessed violence against another person during their lifetimes. The proportion of children who witnessed violence both within the past year and during their lifetimes rose from one age group to the next (Finkelhor, Turner, Ormond & Hamby, 2009).
Rates for witnessing family violence were fairly constant across the span of childhood, with all age groups falling in a fairly narrow range of approximately 6 to 11 percent. Over the course of their lifetimes, boys overall were slightly more likely than girls to witness violence (40.1 percent of boys and 35.4 percent of girls). Boys were more likely to witness violence in the community, murder, and shootings both in the past year and during their lifetimes. There were no gender differences in witnessing family violence (Finkelhor, 2009).
In the past, I have as a Court Advocate for Women affected by Domestic Violence. I have witnessed and counseled many that have indicated that their children were present during their domestic violence disputes. In some cases, the children were injured as a result and there were cases of domestic violence committed against the women by their own children. These children had grown up in an abusive environment and had become the abusers. If the mother is abused during the pregnancy, it is likely that the effect on the unborn will be destined that they will turn out as an abuser.
The children are sometimes removed from the homes and placed into foster homes or both the mother and children are placed in shelters for their safety. The signs that the child is living in a violent home setting is sometimes hidden. When the child is young the child will have multiple behavior problems. Small children will become bitters and cry continuously. They will wet in their pants and they will become disruptive to other children. They are restless and they become withdrawn and alienate themselves from other children. When they are at play with other children, they feel a need to always be in control. They fight often to stay in control and power.
These children also suffer nightmares and wake up yelling and screaming in their sleep.
Some of the children that have suffered from domestic violence are also known to become autistic and perform at a much lower learning and comprehension than children that have never been exposed to domestic violence. They are defiant in school setting. It is known that they have excessive temper tantrums, they become easily irritable, their concentration is off, and they show no interest in any social activities.
There have been many facilities built to assist the human service professionals to be able to work with children that have been exposed to domestic violence. Some of these services include: crisis intervention, shelters, victim advocate programs, court accompaniment and several others. Children are not able to make their own decisions and so there are court appointed professionals that are assigned to make sure the child is placed in a safe environment.
In my conclusion, as a Marriage and Family Counselor, I will do the best job as I can as a professional to ensure that my clients receive the best professional service I can provide. It is important in my profession to treat each person with the utmost urgency and know that they are most important to my practice. As I did the research on the children and how domestic violence affected their lives, I did not realize the number of children that were damaged by domestic violence and the different effects that it had on their lives. Not only does it affect their lives, but the lives of others that surround them. It has a great effect on their education, community and their environment. I plan to work hard to make a difference in the lives of children, youths and families with a great emphasis on the at-risk population.
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