Children are the future leaders and optimal growth and development in a favorable environment is paramount. Unfortunately, the few studies available indicate that children are usually victims of both direct and indirect domestic violence, and this leaves damaging psychological effects that interfere with a child’s social, behavioral and personal development.
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Numerous studies indicate that more than three million children are at risk of witnessing domestic violence in their homes. Women, more than men, are victims of domestic violence, and due to dependency on each other, individuals will remain in abusive environments hoping that the situation will improve. According to this paper, a child is anyone below the age of eighteen, and it aims at discussing the effects of domestic violence on these children.
Domestic violence places a strain on a country’s resources in terms of health, productivity, and housing. According to Anguita (2014, p. 162), domestic violence costs amount to £23 billion each year. Societal expectations prevent individuals from openly reporting domestic violence; hence, prevailing statistical figures are lower compared with the actual figures.
Domestic violence has been deemed a trivial matter for a long time in the UK, and it is only in the last 10 years that domestic violence has been seen as a criminal offense. The traditional notion that domestic violence is not a state offense is the reason for the continued underreporting; thus, it is imperative for health workers to devise ways of detecting domestic violence to help identify more of these cases than is actually the case. It is possible to assume that a victim of domestic violence can easily walk out from the relationship, but often, this is not as easy as it seems.
In a case where the victim of domestic violence is dependent on the perpetrator, he or she may find it arduous to walk away. The result is more violence and children continue to suffer because they may also be dependent on the assailer. According to Anguita, men are also victims of domestic violence. However, most studies look at maternal psychological functioning and its impact on children’s performance. It would be interesting to investigate the effects of fatherly psychological dysfunction on children’s performance.
Domestic violence in the home creates an unsafe environment for everyone, yet the people who suffer most are the children, whose cognitive, social, emotional and personal developments are interfered. According to the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence (2000), children witnessing domestic violence suffer the same effects as those who are physically abused. However, as indicated by Huth-Bocks, Levendosky & Semel (2001, p. 284), a particular threshold of violence needs to be attained in order for two different kinds of abuse to yield the same effect.
The child is a by-product of the home environment; thus, if the home environment is one filled with tension, then the child will be stressed. Children who are victims of violence develop emotional and psychological disturbances that manifest in their actions. Emotional effects of domestic violence, according to the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence (2000 (2000), include shame, grief, guilt, fear of unknown, depression, anger, embarrassment, and conflict of feelings.
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Behavior effects include withdrawal, aggression, disinterest, truancy, attention seeking, poor academic performance, nightmares, lack of self-control, defensive, and manipulation. Social effects include isolation, passiveness, temperamental, not too trusting, home avoidance, poor anger management, and poor problem solving skills. Physical effects include injury to oneself, frequent illness, poor personal hygiene and not attentive.
It is important to note that domestic violence has different effects on children of different age groups; hence, the need for studying children based on their age groups in order to obtain valid and reliable results. According to a study by (2001), domestic violence is mainly prevalent in households at the lower socioeconomic levels. This study focused on preschoolers, and it indicated that children who were witnesses of domestic violence had poorer reading capabilities in comparison to their counterparts as indicated by the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised.
Unlike visual-spatial abilities, indicated by Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence-Revised, domestic violence had a greater effect on the verbal abilities of preschoolers because the environment has been shown to have more influence on verbal skills and language knowledge (p. 283).
Parental stress that results from domestic influence can lead to maternal depression; hence, depressed mothers were shown to be less responsive, less positive and less verbal. As a result, the home environment does not stimulate intellectualism and especially verbal abilities because this study indicated a direct relationship between maternal depression and preschoolers’ verbal abilities.
Children who have had exposure to domestic violence lack control over their social and emotional dimensions of life. Subsequently, they become aggressive, poor academic performers, depressed and unable to maintain social relationships. Carrell & Hoekstra (2010) indicate that children exposed to children who have been subjected to domestic violence have significantly reduced math and reading test scores and significantly increased incidences of misbehavior at school.
Introducing one boy to a larger class, for example consisting of at least 20 students, was associated with 2 percentile decline in test scores for boys while disciplinary infractions increased by 40%. This study by Carrell & Hoekstra (2010, p. 213) has provided significant evidence in favor of the bad apple peer effects model. Based on this model, one bad student has the potential to negatively influence all students in a classroom.
A disruptive student is able to interfere with the learning process and demeanor of the other students using his or her disinterest in learning and diminished academic performance, or the hostile behavior itself. The behavior of disrupted children will interfere and distract their peers while academic achievement is influenced due to a lack of competition and role models.
Generally, children from troubled families have lower academic achievement compared to their counterparts who are not from troubled families, according to Carrell & Hoekstra (2010). Also, children from high-income families where domestic violence prevails have been shown to be most affected since they have lower academic achievement compared to children from troubled low-income homes. Carrell & Hoekstra (2010) indicated that children from high-income families are most affected by their disruptive peers as seen by the greater significant decline in academic performance in this group.
In contrast, children from low-socioeconomic families exhibited six-fold more disciplinary infractions compared to children from high-income families. In accordance with Huth-Bocks, Levendosky & Semel (2001, p. 283), the variation in distribution was explained by the fact that low-socioeconomic households experience more episodes of domestic violence; hence, the children have grown accustomed to such settings as opposed to children from high-socioeconomic families.
Children from low-socioeconomic families will respond in an equally disruptive manner to their disruptive peers as compared to children from high-socioeconomic families because the latter instill discipline and associated repercussions for bad behavior (p. 225). Thus, when domestic violence prevails in high-socioeconomic families, the children suffer most from cognitive dysfunction due to conflict of emotional feelings and psychological thoughts.
The effects of domestic violence are overarching, and Moylan et al. (2010, p. 59) has shown that externalizing and internalizing problems are evident in adolescents who were abused as children. This study by Moylan et al. (2010) is commensurate with that of Huth-Bocks, Levendosky & Semel (2001) in indicating that children who are victims of both direct and indirect domestic violence exhibit more internalizing and externalizing behavioral problems compared to adolescents who have been exposed to one form of domestic violence.
Moylan et al. (2010) indicated this using nine outcomes measures: internalizing, externalizing, anxious/depressed, somatic complaints, withdrawal, delinquency, delinquent behavior, aggressive behavior and depression. On the other hand, single exposure was predictive of some outcomes (p.58-59). A greater comparison was realized for delinquency and depression, measured using the Beck Depression Inventory scores, which are relevant empirical measurements. Females, in comparison to their male counterparts, are significantly predictive of internalizing behavior, while the converse is true for externalizing behavior.
It is evidently true that domestic violence is an impediment to optimal social, psychological, behavioral, academic and personal achievement for children. Domestic violence can impact on children directly and indirectly. Children will not talk of their experiences; hence, they suffer internally and with the little attention according to this subject, more children continue to suffer.
Therefore, there is paramount need for research into this topic and assertion of policies to protect children from domestic violence. Clear cut lines should be developed to know when an action becomes abusive because disciplining children is essential. There should be an understanding of when discipline goes overboard and becomes abuse and violence.
Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (2000). The Effects of DV on Children. Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence Newsletter.
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Anguita, M. (2014). Domestic violence: would you know how to spot it? Nurse Prescribing, 12(4), 162-164.
Carrell, S., & Hoekstra, M. (2010). Externalities in the classroom: How Children Exposed To Domestic Violence Affect Everyone’s Kids. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 2(1), 211-228.
Huth-Bocks, A., Levendosky, A., & Semel, M. (2001). The direct and indirect effects of domestic violence on young children’s intellectual functioning. Journal of Family Violence, 16(3), 269-290.
Moylan, C., Herrenkohl, T., Sousa, C., Tajima, E., Herrenkohl, R., & Russo, M. (2010). The effects of child abuse and exposure to domestic violence on adolescent internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. J Fam Viol, 25, 53-63.