Children Exposed to Domestic Violence: Case Study MaterialResearch Paper

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¶ … Exposure to Domestic Violence Effects Children's mental health

When children are faced with violence, adults usually focus on school performance, aggressive behaviors, and anxiety and/or depression, as these are crucial psychological needs following restoration of the child to safety. However, recent research depicts that the less-obvious negative impacts on the physical health of these children are also worrisome and may extend for several years into their future. Domestic violence exposure includes hearing or seeing the events, directly getting involved in the violent situation, or facing the aftermath (such as witnessing maternal depression or physical damage). Nearly 25% of children experience some form of exposure to violence in their juvenile years (Koenen et al. 2010). An in-depth analysis of population-based surveys in developed nations established that 5% to 35% of young children were abused physically, 5% to 30% were abused sexually, and 10% to 20% were witnesses to domestic violence during their childhood years. Subsequent countrywide estimates are in agreement. A United States (U.S.) national survey obtained reports of violence exposure from children aged below 17 years and their parents (Turner, Finklehor and Ormrod, 2010). U.S. estimates for childhood exposures were 7 -- 33% for bodily assault, 20 -- 29% for intimidation, 13 -- 27% for observing domestic violence between adults, 5 -- 19% for physical abuse, 3 -- 11% for sexual assault/abuse, and 2 -- 9% for dating maltreatment. The study was also carried out in the United Kingdom (UK), with estimates being quite similar (Radford et al. 2011). The World Mental Health Survey by the World Health Organization (WHO) presented estimated figures from 21 nations on the basis of retrospective adult-reports concerning their childhood. Of the survey participants, 5-11% recalled being victims to physical abuse, 1 -- 2% reported direct sexual abuse experiences, and 4 -- 8% reported domestic violence exposure (Kessler et al. 2010). The rates vary partly because of differences between girls and boys, younger children and teens, and because of varying approaches to obtaining data and/or definitions across different studies (Moffitt & Grawe, 2013).

For over 20 years, evidence has shown that witnessing domestic violence (DV) can produce post-traumatic stress (PTS) reactions in children who are physically present when such violent acts occur. These children demonstrate serious behavioral and adjustment issues. In light of these findings, one cannot doubt that PTS responses are produced in children due to DV (Tsavoussis, Stawicki, Stoicea, & Papadimos, 2014). Early childhood tribulations have proven to seriously impact mental health. Strains in early life have been linked with cognitive problems such as poor academic performance, low intelligence quotient, poor memory, inattention, poor language proficiency, and lack of reticence. Such problems may plague a person into their adolescence and adult life, as well. Witnessing sexual victimization or DV in childhood years may intensify risks of subsequently getting married to a violent and abusive individual, and cumulative childhood trauma (not trauma in adulthood). As well, the childhood PTS may approximate post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms' complexity among adults (Tsavoussis, Stawicki, Stoicea, & Papadimos, 2014).

Children cannot calm down in intervals of relative peace at home, between episodes of violence, as they are fearful and remain certain that violence will recur. This fear and subsequent recurrence of violence physically impacts children's brain development. Children facing DV exposure all through their lives turn into anxious and scared individuals, who perceive that any and every situation can be violent. They display many PTSD characteristics. Moreover, boys normally mold their own behavior following the perpetrator's example (typically perpetrators are male), while girls mold behavior following their mothers' example, (mothers are generally DV victims) (Zia, 2013).

Several studies have established that child abuse may result in a series of externalizing and internalizing behavior issues. For instance, research has proven that children who are abused can demonstrate depression, anxiety and various other psychological problems. The influence of abuse persists into adolescent age; teens who faced abuse during childhood will more likely suffer internalizing problems like depression. They also tend to display violence perpetration, delinquency, and other externalizing behavior issues (Moylan, Herenkohl, Sousa, Tajima, Herrenkohl, & Russo, 2010).

Literature Review

When children are faced with violence, adults usually focus on school performance, aggressive behaviors, anxiety and depression, as these are crucial psychological needs following restoration of the child to safety. However, recent research depicts that less-obvious negative impacts on the physical health of these children are also worrisome (Shonkoff 2012; Shonkoff et al. 2012). On a national scale, 10% of children are witness to violence between their parents, or inter-parental violence (IPV) (Child Abuse Facts, n.d.; Domestic Violence and Children, n.d.). Studies depict that children often act violently after exposure to IPV. Moreover, when children experience repeated IPV exposure, their ability to differentiate between normal and violent, behavior diminishes greatly (Irish, Kobayashi & Delahanty, 2010). Such children might also attempt to reduce their emotional anguish through internalizing the witnessed behavior. In adulthood, they may actively carry out this internalized behavior, perpetuating intergenerational violence transmission. This transmission is said to take place when adults, exposed in childhood years to violence, behave violently, adversely affecting other children's development and unconsciously intensifying their aggression and IPV after becoming adults (Wood & Sommers, 2011). How children perceive violence affects their idea of a fair world, outlined by the notion that outcomes always restore moral order, thus making it likely that violence will be justified, in their view, as something normal in relationships between adults (Calvete & Orue, 2013). Also, demographic features distinct from domestic setting (i.e. culture, socioeconomic status (SES), gender-specific influence of parents on children, and age) have also proven to have powerful impacts upon violence-witnessing children (Sousa et al., 2011).

Demographic and Socio-Cultural Factors

Demographic factors such as the child's gender, age, race, and SES can impact his/her opinion of violence and how it shapes intergenerational violence- transmission (DeBoard-Lucas & Grych, 2011). For instance, lower socioeconomic status is linked with acts of violence committed outside one's house, like schools or neighborhoods. Moreover, research into race has portrayed that children from ethnic minority backgrounds are more prone to being victims of violent treatment from their parents, as compared to children from Caucasian backgrounds. In other words, ethnic minorities don't categorize certain physical discipline acts as abuse. Consequently, children hailing from minority communities and low SES families will likely believe that such violence is acceptable, particularly with regards to disciplining family members. This belief can transmit violence across generations (Chan, Alif, & Nelson, 2015). Furthermore, studies have revealed that intergenerational violence transmission may be mediated through perceived societal support. This increases the tendency of low-income children to behave aggressively towards others (Wood & Sommers, 2011).

Apart from SES and race, the child's gender is also a crucial factor (Milletich, Kelly, Doane, & Pearson, 2010). For instance, it has been determined by Milletich and coworkers (2010) that women commit more physical violence toward their partners in heterosexual relationships if, as children, they witnessed their mothers behaving violently towards their fathers. Thus is also true for a son acting violently in his adulthood relationships, as a consequence of witnessing violence by his father in childhood (Milletich et al., 2010; Wood & Sommers, 2011). Whether mimicking the violent acts of same-gender parent is due to gender socialization or role-modeling is not yet known. Studies pertaining to gender socialization reveal that youngsters who witnessed violence will likely act in a gender-typical manner (Phillips & Phillips, 2010). Boys are more likely to justify violence as an instrument for ensuring peer- compliance than girls (Phillips & Phillips, 2010; Wood & Sommers, 2011). Boys comply with gendered power dynamics in a bid to mimic "normal" children (in their opinion), thus, behaving in an aggressive manner to assert dominance (Phillips & Phillips, 2010). Boys witnessing violence reflect more positive opinions than girls regarding violence grounded in stereotypes particularly with regards to male superiority over females. Also, boys who suffered abuse will more likely become excessively aggressive, while girls suffering abuse will more likely justify abuse (Calvete & Orue, 2013; Pournaghash-Tehrani, 2011). Although child abuse more strongly affects dating aggression in girls as compared to boys, literature indicates that experiencing abuse will typically increase the likelihood of a girl remaining a victim, instead of becoming a violence perpetrator (Milletich, Kelly, Doane, & Pearson, 2010).

Aside from race, gender and SES, another noteworthy factor that influences how experiences are framed by children is the stage of development at which they witness violence. Younger children will be more dependent and helpless, and therefore less likely to avoid abuse; this places them in great risk of becoming desensitized to violence (Calvete & Orue 2013). Also, younger children will more likely accept and inculcate extreme views with regards to violence acceptability and gender superiority. Older children exposed to violence are more sympathetic towards others, more mentally and emotionally mature, and will likely be worried for their parents; thus, this slight 'maturity' may mean they are unlikely to perpetrate violence in their adult life (Deboard-Lucas & Grych, 2011). The above developmental differences reveal that the younger… [END OF PREVIEW]

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