Kids affected by domestic violence, too
Domestic violence is a devastating social problem that affects every segment of the population. While responses are primarily targeted toward adult victims of abuse, increased attention is now being focused on the children who witness domestic violence.
Studies estimate that 10 percent to 20 percent of children are at risk for exposure to domestic violence which translates to about 3.3 million to 10 million children who witness the abuse of a parent or adult care-giver each year. Research also indicates children exposed to domestic violence are at an increased risk of being abused or neglected.
Children who live with domestic violence face increased risks: exposure to traumatic events, neglect, being directly abused and losing one or both of their parents.
All of these may lead to negative outcomes for children and may affect their well-being, safety and stability.
Children’s risk levels and reactions to domestic violence exist on a continuum in which some children demonstrate enormous resiliency while others show signs of significant maladaptive ad-justment.
Protective factors, such as social competence, intelligence, high self-esteem, outgoing temperament, strong sibling and peer relationships, and a supportive relationship with an adult, can help protect children from the adverse affects of exposure to domestic violence.
Assessment factors that influence the effect of domestic violence on children include:
Nature of the violence. Chil-dren who witness frequent and severe forms of violence or fail to observe their caretakers resolving conflicts may undergo more distress than children who witness fewer incidences of physical violence and experience positive interactions between their caregivers.
Coping strategies and skills. Children with poor coping skills are more likely to experience problems than children with strong coping skills and supportive social networks.
Age of the child. Younger children appear to exhibit higher levels of emotional and psychological distress than older children.
Age-related differences might result from older children’s more fully developed cognitive abilities to understand the violence and select various coping strategies to alleviate upsetting symptoms.
Elapsed time since exposure.
Children often have heightened levels of anxiety and fear immediately after a violent event.
Fewer observable effects are seen in children as more time passes after the violent event.
Gender. In general, boys exhibit more “externalized behaviors” (e.g., aggression or acting out) while girls exhibit more “internalized” behaviors” (e.g., withdrawal or depr-ession).
For more information, log onto the United States Depart-ment of Health and Human Services Administr-ation for Children and Families Web site at http://nccanch.acf.hhs.-gov, or call Elisa at the CSU Moffat County Cooperative Ex-ten-sion Office, 539 Barclay St., at 824-9180.
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