How Domestic Violence Affects Children

Published: 2021-09-13 11:10:10
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Category: Domestic Violence

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Violence Affects Children It has been well documented that children exposed to domestic violence suffer many forms of trauma, particularly children who witness violence inflicted by one parent on the other parent. To begin, Domestic Violence is typically not about one incident of actual violence but a sustained pattern of abusive behaviors and attitudes that may escalate over time. Threatening words and gestures become part of a pervasive atmosphere of fear. The intimidation is frequently life threatening. (Groves 2006) It is called domestic because it involves a family, a home or household, or a partner.
It could be any member of the family or household that is practicing the violent behavior. Either way, the children involved will be extremely affected. It is widely assumed that if a child is very young they will not remember any violence they experienced at this age. It is believed that time will erase the memories, if the child is under a certain age. This is the reason that in the past most of the research done about domestic violence and juveniles refer to older children. However, in research done in the past few years, infants and toddlers have shown signs that they are affected by being exposed to violence as much as older children.
Violence knows no class, ethnic, race, age, or geographic boundaries so it does not discriminate against which child it will affect. (Groves, 2006) Furthermore, juveniles in violent homes have been called the “forgotten,” “unacknowledged,” “hidden,” “unintended,” and “silent” victims. They have received insufficient attention for far too long. There is a growing recognition that living with or growing up in an atmosphere of domestic violence can have detrimental effects on the juveniles concerned. Said juveniles will exhibit more adjustment difficulties’ than juveniles from non-violent homes. Radford, 2008) Domestic Violence can affect development and lead to emotional, social, physical, behavioral problems, and criminal conduct in the juveniles exposed. Now to take a closer look at how Domestic Violence may affect children in each of the aforementioned areas, how the community and police are involved, and conclude with some ideas on how to help repair the damage done. First we will start with physical problems that can arise in children from exposure to domestic violence. Physical problems caused by Domestic Violence can start as early as birth with some juveniles. One might ask, “How could that be possible? Well it is possible if a woman is being battered while she is pregnant. These attacks represent a form of ‘double intentioned violence’ as they incorporate both acts of woman abuse and child abuse. (Kelly, 1994) The abuse could cause developmental problems with the fetus. The baby could be born with birth defects or distress due to abuse. Domestic Violence is a risk factor for preterm delivery and low birth weight in infants. (Fernandez & Krueger, 1999) There are a plethora of issues that can come from having a baby prematurely, including low birth weight, underdeveloped organs, and death.
At the same time, infants, toddlers and adolescents can also develop physical problems from domestic violence. Some children cope with their circumstances by not eating or over eating. This can cause major issues with their physical health. For example, the child could develop Juvenile Diabetes or they could begin to suffer from malnutrition. It is also possible that these juveniles may turn to hurting themselves or participating in dangerous play. An example of this would be playing with knives or matches and/or cutting or burning themselves. Doing these things could be an outlet the juvenile uses to cope.
Self mutilation is a growing trend among trouble kids. There are more and more cases developing every day. (Fowler and Hilsenroth, 1999) Another angle to look at, concerning the physical problems with juveniles exposed to domestic violence, is if the juveniles are also being battered. If this is the case then the same person that is battering a parent will more than likely be the one that batters the child. Imagine the hurt and shame a child would feel that is being beaten. Confusion as to why this is happening would probably be at the front of the child’s mind.
They don’t know that the domestic violence perpetrator may abuse the child as part of their violence against their partner or to control him or her. (Radford & Hester, 2006) This could prove to be fatal for the child. One factor that has been found to be closely related to juvenile aggression is the quality of the interactions among family members. Research indicates that violent interactions within the family encourage subsequent aggression and violence, not only within the family, but also in other social contexts. (Elrod & Ryder, 2011) Next to be discussed are the emotional problems that domestic violence can create.
Many juveniles will blame themselves for what is happening in their home. They believe that if they somehow could just act a little better or be a little more helpful, everything will get better. They feel guilty that they can’t protect the battered parent. They are very disturbed by the conflict of love and hate that they feel toward the parent that is battering. They deal with constant sadness and feelings that they are unworthy. These children are very cautious and worried because they don’t know when the next act of violence will occur. Exposed children may become nervous, and fidgety.
Sensitiveness to noise and elevated talking levels is another possibility. (Groves, 2002) There is nothing they can do to stop or calm the situation. Crying is a frequent and almost involuntary action when the violence is taking place. Feelings of anxiousness are not far behind. Also, the worry of friends finding out what is happening at home looms over them. Then, juveniles can become socially affected by domestic violence. Some juveniles hold in their feelings and they are consumed from the inside out with grief and sorrow for their family or situation.
Juveniles involved in domestic violence may allow others to harm them or take advantage of them for fear of confrontation. Some will have problems believing in themselves or others. Some juveniles become withdrawn and depressed. They don’t feel worthy of being around others or having a good time. Others, will desire to get as far away as possible. The desire to go places and spend time at other people’s houses may become intense. Spending as much time as possible away from home is how some juveniles deal with the pressure. Being around “normal” families and households becomes a life force.
They don’t easily make friends because they are ashamed and would not want anyone coming to their house. Simultaneously, while all of that is happening, changes to the juvenile’s behavior are slowly taking place. A lot of juveniles actually become violent themselves. They lash out at other children. Throwing tantrums may also happen. Violence is how the juvenile may feel that everything needs to happen. They feel that if the family abuser used this method to gain control, then it is a feasible way for them to get the same effect.
Exposed juveniles could possibly become bullies or will not participate in anything. They become problems for their teachers and other students. They disrupt class and are labeled as juvenile delinquents. In some cases this makes the juvenile feel alone and in search of belonging. This opens the door for gangs and criminal activity. To some youth, gangs feel more like a family than their own. They feel as if they belong to something. The criminal activity that they engage in gets attention and praise from the gang members, which in turn makes the juvenile feel wanted.
For many youths, gangs hold the promise of economic and social opportunities. (Elrod & Ryder, 2011) These juveniles then become a problem for the police and the community, recklessly committing crimes and becoming public nuisances. Once in the gang it is hard for them to get out. How could this have possibly be avoided? What could the parents, police, and community have done to alter this outcome? The first thought is that the abused parent should have removed him/her self from the environment. This is easier said than done in most cases. Juveniles are all too frequently exposed to domestic violence.
Early intervention can be a powerful tool in helping these vulnerable children put their lives back together and breaking the cycle of violence. Since police are the first to respond, when they see that a juvenile is involved, they should contact Child Protective Services or a Social Services worker. Traditional policing practices are generally focused upon apprehending and gathering evidence on perpetrators and have overlooked the service needs of these children. In contrast, the philosophy of community oriented policing is consistent with looking beyond investigation and arrest and including law enforcement in serving the needs of citizens.
However, police alone cannot help these juveniles. In a number of community oriented policing departments around the country, law enforcement has partnered with community service providers to identify and help children exposed to domestic violence. (ABA Report, 2002) After someone intervenes and provides assistance, follow-ups must be done to assure that the child’s needs are being met. As far as the community and school systems are concerned, if there is cause for concern it must be acted on. It is better safe than sorry. If one hears or see a child being abused, the police or CPS should be called.
In school, it is the staff’s responsibility to notify someone if a child is always hungry, dirty, or bruised. Also, if they are constantly having accidents this is a sign. The school counselor should be asked to step in and speak with the child to assess the situation. Again, after the initial step in, some follow-up must be done. With all this in mind what should be done to help the juvenile bounce back from all the pain and confusion of domestic violence. Counseling would be the first step in helping the child to heal. They need to talk with someone who they feel they can open up to.

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