DEPARTMENT OF SOCIOLOGY
THE EFFECTS OF EXPOSURE ON CHILDREN
THE EFFECTS OF EXPOSURE ON CHILDREN
Domestic violence (DV) is a widespread societal issue with repercussions that reach far beyond the family. It is conduct that has detrimental effects for individual victims, children, and their communities. With both long-term and short-term effects, the witnessing of violence in general has been linked to behavioural, emotional and cognitive damage in children. The extent of damage can be attributed to their developmental level, the amount of exposure, physical closeness to the incident, and naturally, the emotional ties one has to those involved. Given these parameters, it is evident that the exposure to violence between parents is a particularly traumatizing reality for children who suffer full consequences of a turbulent home life. Every year in fact, it has been reported that up to 275 million children worldwide are caught in the crossfire of domestic violence. Considering that DV is most often conducted in the home – the one environment best associated with safety and protection, it is of no surprise that a child’s exposure to marital violence has been connected to an assortment of issues. This paper aims to extract the topic of DV in a North American context by focussing on the role of children who are witnesses to spousal abuse. Though children in these circumstances may not be the direct victims of abuse, the effects on children are wide-ranging and often regrettably, overlooked. In order to effectively and efficiently react to individuals suffering domestic violence, we must not only understand the nature and causes of domestic violence, but also understand how violence affects the victims, perpetrators, children, and community at large. Having a thorough understanding of the phenomenon of DV will enable us with the knowledge necessary to intervene, to ensure the well- being of those close to us, and most importantly, to encourage effective parenting so as to ensure that we place ourselves and any potential child in a safe and secure environment. By beginning with an interpretation of domestic violence, this research will demonstrate how children are affected, how law responds to such incidences, and lastly, develop a macro-level explanation for the prevalence of DV in North American homes of the 21st century. This research is dedicated to inspiring knowledge and encouraging more people to undertake the issue of violence against children. DEFINING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Domestic violence, broadly speaking, is violence incurred in the parameters of the home. It is “a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors, including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks […] that adults or adolescents use against their intimate partners.” In these relationships, both men and women “are supposedly peers with equal rights and responsibilities within the relationship.” In other words, neither adult is in a position wherein they have legitimate authority to discipline or control the other. Domestic violence, or spousal abuse, is a distortion and misrepresentation of that relationship of equals with which our society assumes exists in a loving union between two partners. Domestic violence takes its form in a variety of ways. Physically, it is important to recognize that abuse and battery escalates. What starts as violence in a caregiver and child’s presence, as punching a hole in a wall or breaking objects, “battery often escalated into more frequent and serious attacks such as pushing, slapping, pinching, punching, kicking, tripping, and throwing.” Finally, this can lead to more serious behaviours like the breaking of bones, choking, and the use of weapons. Next, sexual abuse is a form of physical abuse wherein the woman is forced to engage in unconsented or...