Topic: Domestic Violence and Child Development
Topic: Domestic Violence
Domestic violence has many definitions, such as “the inflicting of physical injury by one family or household member on another” from Merriam Webster, to a definition from the Childhood Domestic Violence website: “childhood domestic violence, or CDV, is when a child grows up inside a home with violence between their parents or violence towards a parent”.
Interesting Facts about Domestic Violence
Domestic violence can happen in many different forms: it can be sexual, verbal, emotional, or physical. It can happen to the parent or the child. Jeffrey L. Edleson, PHD, from the University of Minnesota, said that “it is a pattern of behaviors used to maintain power and control over the other person.” When a child between the ages of 5-7 experience any form of domestic violence, they can get so overwhelmed that they dissociate.
While these upcoming facts about domestic violence are disheartening, they portray just how real and harmful it is: 1) those who experience CDV are 6X more likely to commit suicide, 2) 50% are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, 3) 74% are more likely to commit a violent crime, 4) 30-60% of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household, and 5) Domestic violence and child abuse are often linked. (Childhood Domestic Violence Association).
About 40% of childhood abuse victims report domestic violence in the home as well (Childhood Domestic Violence Association). Many children that experience domestic violence have a heightened stress activation, which can have harmful effects on their mental and physical health.
Main Point 1: Impact of Domestic Violence on Childhood Development/PTSD
Childhood development is impacted by domestic violence in many ways. Children that witnessed domestic violence are more likely to have experienced things such as emotional neglect, emotional abuse, physical neglect, and physical abuse (Childhood Domestic Violence Association). Children that have experienced domestic violence regularly show symptoms that show they can be tested for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); and how it affects their brain is like combat veterans who have experienced PTSD (Childhood Domestic Violence Association).
There is only a small group of children that will experience any sort of violence may end up showing symptoms of PTSD and developing it. Summarizing several studies, Rossman, Hughes, and Rosenberg (2000) reported that 13 to 50% of youth exposed to interparental violence qualify for diagnosis of PTSD (Margolin & Vickerman, 2007).
There was a sample taken of children around a community that had been exposed to partner aggression, but only 13% of them had reached the criteria for PTSD; yet, over 50% of them exhibited symptoms such as invasive thoughts involving the event, one fifth of them were avoidant towards any outside stimuli that simulates the trauma, and two fifths of them were over aroused in relation to the traumatic events they experienced (Graham-Bermann & Levendosky, 1998).
In the sense of the attachment view, the child is involved in a situation unlikely to be resolved and they will most likely have attachment that is disorganized because the parent is at the same time the source of safety and of danger (Hesse & Main, 2006; Lieberman & Van Horn, 2005). When it is parents that are inflicting angry words and behaviors on their children, this can result in harmful effects on self-esteem and self-worth.
Children have PTSD reactions after a traumatic situation, which normally consists of irregular relationships between emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and psychobiological domains, the symptoms of each of these have the possibility of triggering symptoms in other categories, and they can get in the way of normal maturity and the child will be off track from their normal development activities (Cicchetti & Toth, 1995; Silvern et al., 1995; van der Kolk, 2005). PTSD may present itself differently in children than it does adults, they may reexperience the trauma by acting it through playing or experiencing dreams.
Main Point 2: How domestic violence affects childhood development with the relationship between mother and child
Another way that domestic violence impacts childhood development is in the form of the relationship between mother and child. The mother-child relationship is essential to development. Children who have difficulties with attachment to their mother feel unsure about her presumably because she has been inconsistent to responding to his or her needs in the past (Slade and Aber, 1992). Children who exhibit this behavior tend to show anguish when they are separated from their mother.
Domestic violence generates fear and helplessness, which may be unconsciously done. After birth, an infant can go through distress that is seen as a sign of post-traumatic stress and that makes it difficult for the mother to respond with good parenting mannerisms due to her difficulty with regulating emotion (Schechter, et al., 2005). An emotionally dysregulated mother also conflicts with sensitive parenting.
The baby’s experience of the mother’s responsiveness to him/her begins to provide a cognitive and emotional template, called an internal working model, of him/herself in relation to others and others in relation to him/herself (Bowlby, 1969/1982; Belsky & Fearon, 2002).
The theory of attachment that was introduced by Bowlby puts an emphasis on the role of parent and child relationships that are healthy, and how these are important for the healthy development of children over their life span (Bowlby, 1969). According to Bowlby and other attachment researchers, early (secure) attachments allow children to explore the surrounding environment, to learn skills of engagement, and to develop confidence in their own ability to thrive independent of others (Davies, 2004).
There was a case study done with the mother and daughter that. I mentioned earlier, Laura and Claire. Laura experienced domestic abuse (sexual and physical) from the baby’s father during her pregnancy and before. Based on interview questions she was asked, Laura’s answers to these questions classified her as a distorted mother. Based on the answers from her interview, she was more self-involved than the typical pregnant mother. Because of her experience with domestic violence, Laura showed signs of problems with emotion regulation and anxiety.
When Claire was born, Laura’s behaviors and attitude remained the same. Her distorted thoughts, lack of engagement in her child, and her experience with domestic violence and trauma led her daughter to become self-sufficient and take care of herself, rather than her mother taking care of her. A Strange Situation test was done where Claire was placed in a room with her mother and a stranger. Claire didn’t pay attention to her mother when she tried to get her to play with her and would get upset when the stranger left the room and left Claire with her mother. She also displayed some avoidant behaviors such as busying herself with other things around her.
Main Point 3: Consequences of Abuse and How They Affect Childhood Development
There are many consequences that result from abuse. They can range from poor regulation of emotion to problems with attachment, and there can also be problems in being able to adapt to going to school and with depression and delinquency (Cicchetti, 2013; Cicchetti & Banny, 2014).
Adolescents who experienced abuse or neglect as children are more likely than adolescents who were not maltreated as children to engage in violent romantic relationships, delinquency, sexual risk taking, and substance abuse (Trickett & others, 2011; Wekerle & others, 2009).
Effects of abuse can even go on to cause problems in adulthood, such as depression, suicidal tendencies, and the inability to maintain healthy relationships.
Childhood is a delicate and important stage of life, requiring significant emotional investments and social support (Almeida et al., 2013). Many sources provide care, such as family and community. Having many sources of support can greatly influence their ability to survive and will indefinitely have a positive effect on their quality of life. (Almeida et al., 2013).
In addition, caring functions as a reference value, which helps children to construct their own identity and form the first ideas about themselves, about others, and the world (Deslandes, Assis & Santos, 2005).
The study in this article was done to classify the main problems that children who are exposed to domestic violence may have. They range from depressive symptoms, insecurity, and PTSD (75.8%), to adjustment/behavior problems and aggression (32.6%), and a steady decline in academic performance and bullying (20%) (Almeida et al., 2013).
Domestic violence in childhood is directly correlated with difficulty learning, lower IQ scores, deficiencies in visual-motor skills and problems with attention and memory (Childhood Domestic Violence Association).
Family is one of the most important parts of human development (Chandler & Monnat).
There are 9 adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) that are looked at in this study, one of them being domestic violence (Chandler & Monnat). ACEs are associated with reduced adaptability and increased social isolation (Elliot et al. 2005), reduced self esteem (Oates 1984), and increased rates of dissociation and anger hostility (Teicher et al. 2006).
ACEs that occur in the home environment have a possibility of direct and indirect health risks, such as depression PTSD, stressful home environments, and poor choices for health in adulthood (Repetti, Taylor, & Seeman, 2002).
Abuse in the home affects children in many ways, not only with depression or PTSD, but other factors such as dissociation and limbic irritability which in turn make it harder to get an education and a job in adult life (Teicher et al. 2006).
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