Domestic Violence and Children

  • According to a Department of Justice Survey, 1 in 15 or approximately 5 million children in the United States were witnesses to physical intimate partner violence in the past year.
  • 17.6% of children were witnesses to physical intimate partner violence in their lifetime (Hamby, Finkelhor, Turner, & Ormrod, 2011).
  • Victims report that children are the main reason they remain in a relationship with a violent partner (Vatnar & Bjorkly, 2011).
  • The percentage of children exposed to intimate partner violence is likely to be underreported (Knutson, Lawrence, Taber, Bank, & DeGarmo, 2009).
  • Forms of exposure: Directly witnessing violence, overhearing violence, or witnessing consequences of violence such as bodily injuries/bruising and broken furniture (Holt, Buckley, & Whelan, 2008).
  • Intimate partner violence affects a child’s developmental progress, peer relationships and mental health (Holt et al., 2008).
  • Witnessing intimate partner violence can affect children of any age and the consequences may persist into adulthood.
  • Children who live in a home where intimate partner violence occurs are more likely to experience child abuse (Holt et al., 2008).
  • Compared to couples without children, couples with children experience a higher prevalence of intimate partner violence and an increased severity. The duration of the violence has also been found to be longer (Noueer, Mackey, Tipton, Miller, & Connor, 2014).

EFFECTS ON INFANTS

  • Temper tantrums, crying, despondency, anxiety, resisting comfort, and aggression due to an inability to express the strong emotions they experience as a result of witnessing violence
  • Psychosomatic problems: headaches, stomach aches, asthma, insomnia, nightmares, sleepwalking, enuresis
  • Greater difficulty developing empathy
  • Poorer self-esteem
  • Increased aggression at a later age (Holmes, 2013)
  • Source: (Holt et al., 2008)

EFFECTS ON SCHOOL-AGED CHILDREN

  • Poor social skills that result in an inability to develop and maintain friendships
  • Increased risk of being bullied or bullying others
  • Peer difficulties
  • Depression
  • Difficulty following the rules
  • Increased aggression
  • Compromised learning potential
  • Increased sleep problems (Insana, Kolko, Foley, Montgomery-Downs, & Mcneil, 2014)
  • More likely to display cruelty to animals (Currie, 2006)
  • Source: (Holt et al., 2008)

EFFECTS ON ADOLESCENTS

  • More likely to experience or perpetrate violence themselves (Holt et al., 2008)
  • Increased risk of delinquency (Herrera & McCloskey, 2001)
  • Greater risk of depression (McMcloskey & Lichter, 2003)
  • Increased physical aggression with same-sex peers, dating partners, and parents (McMcloskey & Lichter, 2003)

EFFECTS LATER IN ADULTHOOD

  • Increased risk of alcoholism, illicit drug use, and IV drug use (Dube, Anda, Felitti, Edwards, & Williamson, 2002)
  • Higher levels of stress and depression (Straus, 1992)
  • Increased risk of becoming a victim of intimate partner violence or of perpetrating intimate partner violence (Ehrensaft et al., 2003)

CHILD CUSTODY AND VISITATION

82% of men arrested and convicted on domestic violence charges had some level of continued contact with their children, even following their arrest and conviction (Salisbury et al. 2009).

STEPS TO TAKE IF YOU ENCOUNTER A CHILD WITNESS OF IPV

  • Inform the child of your concern about her/his safety and that you intend to speak to the non-offending parent about the situation
  • Inform the non-offending parent of the child’s concerns
  • Ask if the parent is safe and what types of support would be helpful
  • If possible, make a referral to an intimate partner violence support agency or to counseling/social services/mental health for the adult or adolescent victim and their children
  • Follow up with the parent
  • Notify protective services if there are safety concerns about the child

TIPS FOR WORKING WITH CHILDREN FROM A VIOLENT HOME

  • Set clear rules and boundaries
  • Be honest about what you can and cannot do to help them
  • Try to keep interactions as stress-free as possible
  • Encourage active play with peers
  • Promote self-expression through art and music
  • Teach self-control strategies such as counting to 10 when angry
  • Build up the child’s self-esteem whenever possible
  • Locate and suggest counseling
  • Teach non-violent conflict resolution skills
  • Teach personal safety such as calling 911 and identifying safe people and places
  • Source: Metropolitan Police Domestic Violence Unit