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Domestic Violence is a widespread problem both internationally and nationally (Tjaden and Tjaden, 2000; WHO, 2000; 2002). In the United Kingdom alone it has been reported that one in four women have experienced domestic abuse, at some point in their lives (BMA 1998; Bacchus et al. 2002 and BCS 2006). These statistics found do not represent the true context of the problem encountered by many professionals who may be in contact with these individuals and families. It has been widely reported that with this being a sensitive topic and the nature of the subject, it has been under reported and therefore not truly representative of how serious the problem is (REF).
To define what domestic violence is it may be helpful to understand what kind of behaviours it may entail. The Home Office’s definition of domestic violence is; ‘Any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.’
The issue of domestic violence has no boundaries in regards to gender, age, sexuality, ethnicity, disability or socio economic status. Having said this, it has to be acknowledged that indeed some research does suggest equal prevalence of both male and female perpetrated violence (Straus et al. 1980; Mirrless-Black, 1999 and Morse, 1995). Research has suggested this has failed to account for other kinds of abuse and focused largely on physical assaults. A large error in such studies is in their use of self-completion questionnaires. The use of this tool has been criticised for the heavy emphasis on physical acts that have been taken out of context (Yllo, 1988; Dobash and Dobash, 1992). Thus between acts of self-defence or attack, there is no discrimination nor in the level of impact of the abuse or violence encountered. Mirrlees-Black (1999) however has recognised that the initial findings of her study that showed similar rates for men and women as victims of a violent relationship may not mean that men are equally victimised in the same manner as women. After close examination she found that men interpreted and managed their experiences in a different way to women. In fact men were considerably less frightened, much less injured, and least likely to seek professional help. There are cases of domestic abuse present in same sex relationships, or women as the aggressor towards men but historically, numerically and geographically the most occurring pattern is one of men and their violence towards women (Dobash and Dobash, 1992; and Mullender, 1996). Research has also found that for women the impact of domestic abuse is greater emotionally, psychologically as well as physically (Walby and Allen, 2004; Watson and Parsons, 2005; Women’s Aid and the Women Abuse Studies Unit, London 2001). In addition it has also found steadily that as many as one in three women will experience domestic violence at some point in their lives (McGibbon et al. 1988; Mooney, 1994; Dominy and Radford, 1996).
The presence of children in a household has also shown an association with twice the risk of domestic violence for women (Walby and Allen, 2004). In this sense children cannot help but be affected by their experiences of abuse. Hence, while the focus of study and understanding has mostly been achieved in eliciting women and their views, of shelter workers and of other professionals, it has also pursued a line of investigation directly into children’s experience of contact to domestic violence (Buckley, Whelan and Holt, 2006; Hague and Mullender, 2006; Mullender et al., 2002 and McGee, 2000). A substantial amount of literature in this area exists which concentrates on the effects on children (Hague and Mullender, 2006; Hazen et al. 2006). Edleson (1999) has in fact found more than eighty studies in this area.
Childhood is regarded as an important and significant period in anyone’s lifetime. It is a time that should be guarded. Development and learning during this period should be nurtured and supported in the given environment. If the environment is tainted by fear and violence, the act itself of growing up becomes an arduous task. Osofsky (1995) found that exposure to violence can lead to reverting back to childhood, also known as ‘regressive’ symptoms such as bedwetting, delayed language development and anxiousness over separation from parents. Other researchers have also found links between domestic violence within a household and children having learning and behavioural problems which can affect their health, emotional and behavioural well-being (Wolfe et al. 1988 and Margolin, 1998).
It is important to iterate that no researchers in this area have stated that domestic violence causes these maladaptive behaviours. Often where domestic violence occurs, other social problems have been known to also exist. Devaney (2008) found that domestic violence was present when parental substance and alcohol misuse also existed. As you can see this starts to formulate a slightly less straight-forward area of research where many complexities are involved; though serves to highlight other risk factors which may be helpful to look at.
Research in the area has also indicated that there are links between domestic violence and child abuse. Bancroft and Miller (2002) have found that there is a greater chance of a child experiencing physical or sexual abuse whilst living in a household where domestic violence occurs. Indication of how grave the issue is can be seen in a study by Walby (2004) who found that in 40% of child abuse cases there was also co-occurrence of domestic violence. This is further supported by Hester et al. (1998) who suggested that domestic violence is contributory factor in half of all serious case reviews and 75% for those cases placed on the child protection register. This raises domestic violence as a child protection concern in the field of social work and thus has serious implications for practice.
The high prevalence of domestic violence in child protection cases is not reflected in the same way in terms of health care professionals who have discovered a much lower proportion of domestic violence (Naumann et al. 1999; Mooney, 1993). The low rate of detection by professionals can perhaps be attributable to many factors. So far enquiry in this area has suggested that the level of knowledge a practitioner may hold with regards to domestic violence and abuse may be a crucial factor. Peckover (2003) goes further to highlight that professional’s improper attitudes alongside a general absence of understanding and training regarding domestic violence may also explain the low statistics in uncovering abuse. This highlights a significant gap in an area where research and early intervention should be at its most robust. This could be explained that perhaps there is no infallible distinction or separation in both policy and practice of child abuse from woman abuse (Humphreys and Mullender, YEAR).
A reason why the issue exists in such a context i.e. Children’s services, it may be that there is less emphasis on the use of monitoring domestic violence and is not seen as a child protection concern. The services that are available to children living with domestic violence are based on the presumption that is the women’s responsibility to protect the child from experiencing harm, which characteristically involves forcing the partner to leave or leaving the household with her children herself. This also signifies the narrow understanding of domestic violence in a multi-professional manner but also its response to it. Lack of early intervention and strategies in place to identify children who may be at a risk of harm may also lead to increased social exclusion and increased financial strain on the state (REF).
By addressing such themes in the literature review I will aim to demonstrate how the relationship between domestic violence and abuse is such that, where one is existing enquiries should consistently be made about the other. This will help to form safer, more sensitive assessments and well placed interventions.
In light of research shown it may raises questions as to how far the impact of domestic violence is on children who are exposed to it, what possible interventions exist for such a large social problem.
Methodology – I will use to address the problem
Whilst it has been acknowledged that a fully systematic review cannot be undertaken due to the time constraints of my MSc course I intend to use a systematic approach when reviewing literature.
I will use a literature review to highlight key themes and issues brought to light by using a systematic approach when conducting and forming my search. I have also recognised that a non-systematic approach can lead to misleading conclusions in research which is not accurately verified. In addition a non-systematic review does not undertake critique of the literature which is needed to form a balanced judgement. Whereas a systematic approach will facilitate my research question/ rationale with a well-focused searching strategy to enhance appraisal and fusion of the literature I will be researching.
However, I have realised that whilst a literature review is less time consuming and the least expensive research method. There are advantages and disadvantages to this. The benefit to employing this method is that it will allow me to be rigorous when synthesising relevant data found, and examine the evidence found. Though the weakness is that it will be not me conducting primary research which would be more beneficial to make the social science discipline more evidence based.
In conducting a search so far I have already recognised the implications in using the terms domestic abuse, domestic violence and intimate partner violence. I have so far found that some of these terms only take into account certain aspects such as physical assaults. Therefore I will continue to use these terms when searching for relevant literature as it is used quite inter-changeably.
To help find literature that addresses the research question I will intend to use established search engines and databases such as Google Scholar; DISCOVER; PsychInfo; and CINAHL. These databases will mostly be used to search for primary sources of research conducted. In addition Dawson Era the online university library will also be utilised for secondary sources such as books and other texts.
Through this I will aim to discuss possible themes that have impacted children’s development in relation to domestic abuse and the risk factors associated. I will also aim to look at intervention strategies in place that recognise domestic violence as a co-occurring factor to potential child protection and safeguarding aspects of social work practice.
To exactly utilise a systematic approach when conducting a literature review it may be important to have an inclusion and exclusion criteria to help in analysing relevant data. For inclusion I will keep a time frame in mind that is in line with current policy and research. As it is only as recent as the last three decades that children and young people have been directly investigated and researched when concerned with the impact of violence to them. Therefore, I have decided to limit data found in the past two decades to address the question.
Therefore in light of research found in this area, it has raised key research questions. The question I have decided to focus my review on which is; what are the impacts of domestic violence on children and what are the implications of this for social work practice.
Expected contribution to knowledge
I will aim to further analyse my findings by utilising theories useful to underpin data found. Theories which I will use will be the Crisis intervention theory, Maslow and his hierarchy of needs, and person-centred theory. These will help to identify further recommendations that could help child care services to better meet the needs of children affected by domestic violence.
To keep from going off topic, I will aim to meet with my dissertation supervisor on a regular basis to uncover and discuss issues in more detail with work presented.
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