Research Paper: Domestic Violence Is Often Overlooked

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[. . .] Despite the multitude of research conducted on this disorder, all results indicate that the incidence of PTSD is higher among children who have witnessed/experienced domestic violence and prove PTSD is worth looking into when treating or working with children exposed to domestic violence. However, PTSD is not the sole concern among children who witness domestic violence. These children may also experience anxiety, depression or other psychological problems.

IV. Anxiety/Depression/Other Psychological Disorders

Anxiety and depression are both indicators on the internalizing behavior scale of the Child Behavior Checklist that are often times connected to children who witness or experience domestic violence. Some research specifically addresses anxiety and depression. Goldstein reports males more so than females report instances of suicidal thoughts and tendencies as well as developing depression. They also show higher rates of suicide attempts and higher suicide deaths than females.

From the information gathered, children exposed to domestic violence as they get older, also reported symptoms of tension, sadness, depression, along with self-harm with gender not being a determining factor. Symptoms of eating disorders and insomnia have also been found in child abuse victims and witnesses with eating disorders being most prevalent with females. Additionally, "specific measures of depression and anxiety administered to children of battered women found that 16% met the clinical criteria for depression and 23% were in the clinical range on measures of anxiety" (Jouriles, Spiller, Stevens, McDonald, & Swank, 2000, p. 233-249)

Further research reinforces the statement that children experiencing or witnessing domestic violence are more likely to fall into depression. Correlational research backs additional findings that child depression and anxiety are connected to witnessing abuse of the mother (Ward, Flisher, Zissis, Muller, & Lombard, 2001, p. 297-302). Violence within the home was a determinant for children in developing anxiety and depression, as well as increased vulnerability to substance abuse. Women living in battered shelters have children who often show signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder and social anxiety.

Children exposed to both witnessing and experiencing domestic violence had higher rates of internalizing and externalizing behavior over all areas compared to the fewer rates in children either witnessing or experiencing and even lesser rates of those who live in non-violent homes. Additionally, Evans et al. (2008) found that that boys exposed to domestic violence were at a higher risk for externalizing behavior problems than were their female counterparts. "Several studies suggest that exposure to domestic violence may affect boys and girls differently" (Evans, Davies, & DiLillo, 2008, p. 133) Boys displayed more externalizing behaviors while females displayed more internalizing behaviors with boys demonstrating higher rates of suicide and violence.

V. Domestic Violence-Exposed

Domestic violence is of significant importance and priority to authorities. The problem is identifying domestic violence in the home and realizing when a child needs help. The issue lies in the complexities reporting and solving the problem. Domestic violence is not something that goes away quickly.It's a process that usually derives its energy from cyclical patterns arising from the parents and passed down to the children.

Domestic violence could be of any kind and can appear in any form, be it child abuse, intimate partner violence, marital rape, etc. Gosselin discusses in her book: Heavy hands: An introduction to the crimes of family violence various instances of abuse and case studies that feature real people going through obstacles in not only reporting the abuse/violence, but also dealing with the aftermath. For qute some time the courts and police did not intervene in few cases of domestic violence, especially as it pertained to child abuse. The reason being was they were reluctant to interfere in "family issues" and even when they tried to intervene, the family would try their hardest to stick together despite the hostile environment.

Officials were unable to do much but offer shelters. But as time progressed new laws were made passed that gave officials and the authorities the liberty they needed to protect children of domestic violence. (Gosselin, 2009, p. 275) One of first actions taken against child abuse through the work of Dr. Kempe, a radiologist, who proposed a term called battered child syndrome. Battered child syndrome referred to maltreatment children. This included physical, sexual, emotional and medical neglect.

Dr. Kempe's work also lay the ground work for physicians to be required to report suspected child abuse.By 1967, after Dr. Kempe's findings gained considerable attention general acceptance among health and welfare workers and the public, 44 states passed legislation requiring physicians and later on, anyone working with children, to report any suspected child abuse to official agencies, and the remaining six states developed voluntary reporting laws. (American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children,, 1986, p.12) This law became one of the most rapidly accepted pieces of legislation in American history. At first only doctors were required to report and then only in cases serious/recurring cases or "non accidental injury." Presently, all the states have laws that require most professionals who serve children to report all forms of suspected abuse and either require or permit any citizen to report child abuse.

As a direct consequence of the effort of Dr. Kempe and others within the government, the first federal law against child abuse was passed in 1974 called the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act or CAPTA. The basics of the law require anyone mistreating or neglecting a child face consequence in court. CAPTA also provides funding to support prevention of such events by allocating grant money to public agencies. It also maintains what defines child abuse to which everyone must follow. The points in identifying child abuse are as follows:

• Any form of physical assault.

• Sexual abuse or exploitation and/or any kind of forcible act

• Close confinement, restriction, or binding of arms and legs.

• Any form of threat given to the child

• Abandonment or refusal to maintain custody.

• Encouraging child to perform bad behavior or forcing them into prostitution.

• Refusing to help child financially, physically, neglecting the child

The five major categories identified by the act are: emotional abuse, psychological abuse, neglect of any form, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. (Gosselin, 2009, p. 279)

One of the cases Gosselin discusses in her book is the McMartin Preschool trial. This trial shows and explains what happened to children in a daycare where sexual abuse occurred and its aftermath. "The McMartin preschool trial was a day care sexual abuse case of the 1980's. Member of the McMartin family, who operated a preschool in California, were charged with numerous acts of sexual abuse of children in their care. Accusations were made in 1983. Arrests and the pretrial investigation ran from 1984 to 1987, and the trial ran from 1987 to 1990. After six yeas of criminal trials, no convictions were obtained, and all charges were dropped in 1990. When the trial ended in 1990 it had been the longest and most expensive criminal trial in American history." (Gosselin, 2009, p. 215) This trial shows the difficulty in proving abuse cases and at times leaves criminals free of conviction. Many cases of sexual abuse within the family do not even go on trial due to lack of witness testimony, sufficient evidence. That is why it is of the utmost importance people learn to identify abuse within homes in order help a child receive help.

VI. Conclusion

Child abuse is an ever growing problem with more and more unintentional births each year. Parents are not ready to take care of their children and will more times than expected, neglect or abuse their children. Children are resilient and depending on how much abuse they witnessed or experienced, they will show more or less symptoms with some showing positive effects and others showing very negative effects. The topics covered signs of abuse from bruising, behavioral problems as well as the differences in genders when dealing with domestic violence.

Males are more likely to be depressed and commit suicide, whereas females are more likely to have eating disorders and run away. Still people also must realize the difficulty children faced when confronting domestic violence. Most are afraid to speak out about in fear of retaliation or further violence from their perpetrators. And some sadly repeat the cycle and become either abused or abuser.

In order for the cycle of violence to cease, more research must be done to understand further the results of domestic violence on children. More understanding of the negative effects of domestic violence on children will lead government to pass legislation to make it easier to convict an adult of domestic violence. Even in this tough economy where the government is ridding themselves of expensive programs, keeping funding active for batter women and their children is important in providing hope for these children affected by tragedy.

Identifying abuse is just as important as stopping it. If people learn how and what signs lead to potential domestic violence, they can stop innocent children… [END OF PREVIEW]

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APA Format

Domestic Violence Is Often Overlooked.  (2013, September 23).  Retrieved June 26, 2019, from

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"Domestic Violence Is Often Overlooked."  23 September 2013.  Web.  26 June 2019. <>.

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"Domestic Violence Is Often Overlooked."  September 23, 2013.  Accessed June 26, 2019.