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Children's Observations of Interparental Violence (From Battered Women and Their Families, P 147-167, 1984, Albert R Roberts, ed. - See NCJ-92747)

NCJ Number
B E Carlson
Date Published
21 pages
Witnessing physical violence between one's parents is likely to affect all children in some way. Intervention, often in the emergency shelter, should revolve around expressing feelings about the home situation and teaching alternative methods of conflict resolution.
While research on violent families is limited, four types of work provide some data on the impact of observing parental violence on children: research on the relationship between physical and emotional stressors, notably divorce; anecdotal reports on children in violent homes; research on such children; and findings from retrospective studies of adults who grew up in violent homes. While witnessing physical violence appears to have some impact on all children, its effects can be mediated by several factors, including the sex and age of the children, intensity and frequency of the violence, and parental responses to family dysfunction. The range of effects may be categorized as somatic problems, behavior problems, risk of physical abuse and neglect, and learning to model violence. Projections from existing data estimate that at least 3.3 million children yearly are at risk of exposure to parental violence. There is very little research on intervention strategies for these children. Domestic violence emergency shelters, however, are in a unique position to help children deal with the dual crises of being forced to leave home and adjust to a new living situation. Ideal shelter programs are structured and should use individual and group counseling to help children identify and express their feelings about the violence as well as to improve their self-esteem. Approximately 30 references are supplied.