nnedvlogoThe month of October has been designated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month or Intimate Partner Violence Awareness Month.  The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) defines the act as the willful intimidation, assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner against another. It is an epidemic-affecting individual in every community, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background. Violence against women is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior, and thus is part of a systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence results in physical injury, psychological trauma, and sometimes death.

Numerous studies have focused on the impact Domestic Violence (DV) or Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) has on the partner-to-partner relationship, very few highlight the negative effects or mental health impact it has on children in those relationships. It is estimated that over that over 3 million children are exposed to DV/IPV each year (Carlson 1984). There is mounting evidence that suggests DV/ IPV and it effects is not only localize to the man or woman who is being abused; it often spills over to children, and adolescents as well.   Straus and Gelles, 1990 report that approximately 53% to 70% of male batterers frequently abuse their children.  Batters often attack their children in efforts to manipulate and control their abused partners.

 Children and adolescents who are exposed to domestic violence may not fully grasp the impact it is having on them, but it is evidence by their behaviors that there is a direct correlation between exposure to violence and impairment in cognitive, social, emotional development.  Many children and adolescents will live what they learn; as they form their identity, each will actively incorporate both good and maladaptive skills they have gleaned from the lives of the adults with which they interface; thus they perpetuate the cycle of violence. Young children often display this behavior when they are playing with other children. 

Prolong exposure to DV/IPV often manifest itself in many ways- children and adolescents are sometimes irritable, some have sleep disturbances, feelings of loneliness and isolation. Others may become oppositional, and exhibit great difficulty in fostering peer-to-peer relationships. It is also not uncommon for children and adolescents to display depressive symptoms, great levels of anxiety, develop eating disorders, suicidal ideation and display intermittent explosive behaviors. Many children and youths are also dealing with loss-either because of the death of parent due to DV/IPV or the incarceration of parent. This sort of interruption in normal life processes may foster unhealthy attachments and relationship development with others.

The reality is that without proper interventions a significant number of children and adolescents will grow up with maladaptive behaviors if DV/IPV exposure is not addressed and interrupted. Even though children and adolescents may encounter these negative effects, there is hope, as some children and adolescents, who have not received interventions, have not been greatly affected by the trauma; they are resilient- their resiliency serves as protective factors against the trauma. This is not a suggestion for communities to turn a blind eye to the issue, because no one can accurately predict which child or adolescent will show resiliency. Therefore the onus lies on the shoulders of members of the helping profession and communities on a whole to do their part in addressing DV/IPV and its effects on children.  Communities and Helping professionals can:

      Educate themselves on the topic of domestic violence or intimate partner violence.

      Build rapport with children and adolescents.

      Provide the children or adolescent and their family with information on ways to access shelters.

      Employ a lot of therapeutic skills when working with them.

      Empower and validate what the children or adolescents are feeling, and connect with them

      Use empathy skills to work with the children, youths and their families

  • Finally advocate for policies to address DV/IPV and ways to prevent the impact it has on children and adolescents.

Tri- County Youth Services Bureau