, Research Paper
Children Who Witness Domestic Violence: The Invisible Victims
Children today are likely to experience or witness violence at home. Researchers are concerned about the effect domestic violence has on children, and has prompted researchers to conduct an increasing number of investigations into this issue. Social learning theory and Erikson’s theory of basic trust are two tools used to predict aggressive behavior in children.
Children develop their basic sense of trust at very early age. If the child proceeds through this stage with the proper support, they will learn to trust others. Otherwise, if the parents are violent, abusive, or the environment they grow up in is not safe, then they will lack that inherent trust in others. Later in life, these individuals may become either criminals or the victims of the violence.
Over the past half century, violence in the United States has increased dramatically. Children who were raised in a tough, low-income neighborhood often fail to escape exposure to violence. They may witness homicides, assaults, and some may even have had a friend who had been killed. According to recent research, these children have higher violence rates than those kids who grew up in a non-violent neighborhood.
Today, children are likely to experience or witness violence in the home. With domestic violence being the most frequent type of violent crime, a child’s homes is no longer a safe haven. Statistics show that domestic violence is the major cause of injuries to women; their husbands or lovers kill one third of all women murdered in United States. Unfortunately, a number of these cases occur in the presence of children.
These children often show signs of emotional distress and immature behavior at a very young age. These symptoms might affect their behavior throughout their adolescent and adult lives. Most experts believe that children who are raised in abusive homes, learn that violence is an effective way to resolve conflicts and problems, or it’s a part of family relationships.
Because most victims of domestic violence are mothers, these battered women often fail to play a very important role in raising their children. When their children need them, they can not be emotionally available and responsive because they have to deal with their own battles. They often feel frustrated, helpless and fearful, often shutting themselves off from family and the rest of the world. Unfortunately, children raised by such parents often experience tension and lack of trust. They feel powerless, and they rarely know what to expect from interpersonal relationships.
A recent study exposed one of the most chilling aspects of domestic violence; that violence is handed down and becomes an intergenerational circle. Children who witnessed family violence are more likely to become violent criminals than those who were not exposed to violence. The incidence of domestic violence in the United States has soared in recent years, making the research on domestic violence exposure that much more of a priority.
We are still unable to fully understand the impact that the exposure to violence has on children. Secondly, when these children get caught in the middle of inter-parental violence, they tend to express anger towards others and society in general. They also tend to have lower scores in social competence than comparison groups.
Why do some children from violent homes appear to be at increased risk of developing problems in social functioning and cognitive functioning? Why do we always wait until incidents happen before we give those children treatment? Today, much of what we know of domestic violence is from interviews of parents, caseworkers, and older children. However, this method of research has its inaccuracies.
For any number of reasons, such as embarrassment, parents tend to underestimate the incidence of violence in the home. Worse yet, they may even fail to report the violence, continuing the cycle of abuse. Since these problems still exist, we should make every effort to develop effective programs to help educate the perpetrators and victims of domestic violence.
One such program is the Youth Outreach Services. In this project, local advocates and volunteers work in collaboration with schools, churches and community organizations providing educational presentations on the effects of domestic violence on children. Parents also learn non-violent parenting skills, enabling them to deal with their children effectively. They also provide a 24-hour crisis line, a place to sleep, clothing, food, medical treatment referrals, and assistance with reporting crimes to police and prosecutors. This program has helped reduce the crime, and strengthen the children?s self-esteem through community service. Relationship building is a prime focus, and they learn how to create healthy relationship with others. We still have a long way to go in the future. Activists must continue to promote public awareness of domestic violence, and help to make this country a better place to live.