Domestic violence is a serious issue that can have severe consequences for the development of children that grow up in such environments. The issue of domestic violence and its effect on children is one of the more prevalent topics in social sciences, but the need for additional research is clear. Domestic violence is often associated with the development of social and mental disorders due to childhood trauma. It may also have a lasting effect on the person’s ability to gain education, stable work, and engage in relationships. This paper will provide an overview of the effect that domestic violence can have on children, as well as a possible treatment to reduce these effects.
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Domestic violence is categorized by harmful actions towards members of one’s family. It may be committed by spouses toward each other, by parents toward children, as well as toward the elderly members of the family. The type of behavior can also differ from case to case. It may be verbal assault, emotional manipulation, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and any other harmful actions toward family members. The effect that such an environment has on children should not be understated. A number of negative effects on the development of children have been revealed through research, and they often have a significant impact on the adult life of the person.
Research shows that domestic violence is likely to cause mental and psychological issues in children. A recent study by Catherine Naughton, Aisling O’Donnell, and Orla Muldoon has examined 465 people aged 17-25 who have experienced various types of domestic violence during their childhood. Their physical, emotional, and psychological well-being was taken as the criteria for the study. The results of the study have shown two types of results to be the most common. The first was based on the participants who experienced domestic psychological violence as children, and it clearly showed that their adult psychological well-being was directly affected by it. The participants who were survivors of physical domestic violence, however, have initially not shown the same results. Mediation analysis was required to reveal that a suppression effect was present (Naughton, O’Donnell, & Muldoon, 2017). The selected people have almost universally exhibited one or more types of mental disorders that had a negative effect on their life.
These mental disorders often include disorders that affect emotions. For example, chronic depression is often associated with victims of molestation. The chronic subtype of depression is often overlooked due to the lack of material on the subject, but preliminary reports have shown that domestic violence is one of its major causes. It not only enables the development of the disorder but also exacerbates it (Klein, 2010). It may also be accompanied by the development of nonsuicidal self-injury habits. Such habits are often a symptom rather than a disorder itself, but their danger to the person should be considered. The function of self-harm is often tied to a need for help from the person who is unable to communicate it verbally due to emotional or psychological stress (Nock, 2009). Unfortunately, the research on this issue is also sparse and requires a lot more attention before concrete results may be revealed.
The consensus on whether childhood experiences with domestic violence may cause the child to repeat them as an adult is mixed, however. A study from France has examined the effect of domestic violence on children’s anger, anxiety, depression, and the development of PTSD. It compared children who grew up in non-violent families and those that experienced domestic violence. The latter has shown to have greater results on all four metrics. The likelihood of developing anger-related mental disorders is high according to this study (Dumont, Lessard, Cyr, Chamberland, & Clément, 2014), but this is not the only opinion on the matter. An earlier study has compared the historical data on domestic violence in the United States.
The research was focused on poly-victimization, types of violence, and its connection to social issues such as racism, homophobia, and others. Throughout the study, a positive trend in the reduction of domestic violence over the years can be seen. In fact, the rate of familial abuse has greatly reduced since the year 2000 (Anderson, 2010). These statistics may suggest that frequency of anger disorders caused by domestic violence is low enough to reduce its frequency over the years. Both studies can be correct, however. Perhaps the frequency of non-violent disorders is higher than violent ones, or the trauma caused by childhood experiences prevents people from creating families of their own.
Domestic abuse can also lead to the development of social disorders. Such issues may include anti-social behavior and the development of negative habits that can be harmful to the person and those who surround them. Substance abuse is a commonly seen outcome of domestic violence. Children exposed to violence are more likely to start drinking and taking drugs early. They may become involved in criminal activity, which can lead to further development of anti-social behavior. Research on this issue reveals that children who experienced multiple types of domestic violence are more susceptible to such behavior (Turner, Shattuck, Hamby, & Finkelhor, 2013). Their distress, anxiety, and desperation are reflected in their attempts to disassociate from society at large, which makes the implementation of treatment a more difficult process as the people may be unaware of the causes for their behavior. The child’s education often suffers because they become uninterested in studies and cannot find the motivation to continue their education. The dangers of this behavior may leave the child without even a school degree, which would severely limit their opportunities in life.
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While parental incarceration may seem like a direct solution to such issues, it has its own negative elements that require consideration. Even when the violent member of the family is gone, the remaining members are likely to still feel the impact of their actions, as well as their absence. Depending on the environment, the way the mother raises her child after her abusive husband leaves is likely to remain the same (Levendosky & Graham-Bermann, 2001).
Studies have shown that children in such situations have experienced a sharp decline in educational prowess. They are more likely to experience early grade retention, difficulty in developing relationships with classmates, and even develop an inability to study consistently. Stress becomes a much larger factor for children in these situations if appropriate treatment actions are not taken. Children often become skipping school and falling behind on study material. Some cases even report that children who experienced childhood trauma are less likely to be accepted into higher education institutions (Turney, 2014). All of the presented outcomes show the importance of help that needs to be delivered to families who experience this type of violence.
Attempts to Resolve the Issue
Child welfare services were designed to address the issue of domestic violence. These organizations differ in various countries, but their purpose is shared. When child abuse or neglect is reported to governmental authorities, child protective services arrive to evaluate the situation and determine whether any action is required. They are capable of removing children from their families if the environment proves to be harmful to the child. This power has led to a high level of controversy over potential false accusations and inaccurate investigations that may separate the child from their parents. However, the results achieved by the professionals who work in these organizations have proven themselves to be positive. A review from child welfare experts has shown that the current actions of child protective services are beneficial to the victims of domestic violence, but called for additional research on the amount of material is low (Avdalovic & Bryant, 2017). In some cases, this is the only possible resolution as both parents may be involved in domestic violence, leaving the child with no suitable guardian.
The issue of domestic violence is unfortunately prevalent in society. Even though all the harmful outcomes that it brings to its participants are clear, the statistics show that it is still actively present. One of the most tragic outcomes that violence brings is the way children are affected by it. The fragile psyche of a child is often unable to handle the pressure, fear, and physical harm. Therefore, the child becomes more likely to developmental and social disorders. In some cases, only child welfare services are capable of dealing with this complex issue.
Anderson, K. L. (2010). Conflict, power, and violence in families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72(3), 726–742.
Avdalovic, J., & Bryant, B. (2017). Child welfare professionals’ perspectives regarding the effectiveness of services and practice interventions for children who were exposed to domestic violence. Web.
Dumont, A., Lessard, G., Cyr, K., Chamberland, C., & Clément, M.-È. (2014). L’exposition à la violence familiale: Effets du cumul d’autres formes de violence. Criminologie, 47(1), 149–166.
Klein, D. N. (2010). Chronic depression: Diagnosis and classification. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 19(2), 96–100.
Levendosky, A. A., & Graham-Bermann, S. A. (2001). Parenting in battered women: The effects of domestic violence on women and their children. Journal of Family Violence, 16(2), 171–192. Web.
Naughton, C. M., O’Donnell, A. T., & Muldoon, O. T. (2017). Exposure to domestic violence and abuse: Evidence of distinct physical and psychological dimensions. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Web.
Nock, M. K. (2009). Why do people hurt themselves? New insights into the nature and functions of self-injury. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18(2), 78–83.
Turner, H. A., Shattuck, A., Hamby, S., & Finkelhor, D. (2013). Community disorder, victimization exposure, and mental health in a national sample of youth. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 54(2), 258–275.
Turney, K. (2014). Stress Proliferation across Generations? Examining the Relationship between Parental Incarceration and Childhood Health. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 55(3), 302–319.