Children’s developmental outcomes are compromised when a child is exposed to domestic violence (Wolfe, Crooks, Lee, McIntyre-Smith, & Jaffe, 2003). Children suffer adverse effects from experiencing trauma by verbal and physical behaviors directed at them and by witnessing it (English, Marshall, & Stewart, 2003). It is also shown that children’s social, emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and general health functions are affected negatively from exposure to domestic violence. Studies began in the late 1980’s to determine the effects of violence on children and shows that children exposed to violence have significant and measurable, negative functioning when compared to a nonviolent family. Plus, children’s social competence, school achievement, cognitive functioning, and psychopathology are compromised and their normal development is effected both short and long-term. Studies also reveal that different types of violence effect children differently and some children may have more adverse reactions to what they have been exposed to (Wolfe, Crooks, Lee, McIntyre-Smith, & Jaffe, 2003). Age and gender of a child and family situational factors also determine the severity of adverse reactions to the violence (English, Marshall, & Stewart, 2003). Children who receive appropriate interventions soon after the traumatic event are more likely to suffer fewer side effects (Osofsky, 2004).
Domestic Violence: Effects on Children
Development of Domestic Violence
The issue of violence has developed throughout the years, back to Western society. Women had been viewed as property of their husbands and their husbands were free to do what they willed. When a man hit his wife, society would look the other way. They viewed it as a way of discipline and did not question it. It was assumed that there was a good reason for a woman to be hit and that it was a consequence from her actions. “The courts ruled that if no permanent injury has been inflicted, it is better to draw the curtains, shut out the public eye, and leave the parties to forgive and forget” (James & Gilliland, 2005). There have been many theories related to child abuse and wife abuse. One theory is the social learning theory. A batterer is believed to have been a victim of abuse and therefore abuses. Parents who break the cycle have social support, healthy infants, and had a positive attitude about the birth of their child compared to the one-quarter to one-third who go on to abuse their own children. Others believe that poverty, racism, inadequate medical care, lack of employment and social acceptance of violence towards children are contributors to child maltreatment. The egological perspective states that there is a problem in the parent-child environment system. The family setting and social system setting impact family dynamics. Children, who grow up in homes where wife abuse is prevalent, witness the violence and may be injured in the spousal assault, or may become targets themselves. Children in these homes have more internalizing and externalizing behavior problems (Tajima, 2004). The violence affects the whole family; the mother, the children, and the abuser. The mother has very low self-esteem, the abuser is sometimes seen in a negative light by others, and the children suffer severe side effects as well. Some children suffer from maladaptive behaviors as a result from observing or being a target of the violence. Family violence is the most widespread type of interpersonal violence that occurs within the relational unit, one with significant bonds, power dynamics, and attachments (Tajima, 2004). It is reported that three million children have viewed incidents of domestic violence in a year, and half of the male abusers physically harmed their children (Haeseler, 2006). This interfamilial trauma is felt by the entire family and it disrupts attachment bonds and severs important family...