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Children's Perceptions of Intimate Partner Violence: Causes, Consequences, and Coping

NCJ Number
Journal of Family Violence Volume: 26 Issue: 5 Dated: July 2011 Pages: 343-354
Renee L. DeBoard-Lucas; John H. Grych
Date Published
July 2011
12 pages
This study investigated children's perceptions of violence between their caregivers.
Children's appraisals of conflictual and aggressive parental interactions mediate their effect on children's adjustment. Previous studies have relied almost exclusively on self-report questionnaires to assess appraisals; consequently the authors know little about perceptions that occur naturally when children witness interparental aggression. This study employed a semi-structured interview to assess the thoughts and feelings of 34 children (ages 7-12) whose mothers were receiving services at domestic violence agencies, and mothers reported on interparental aggression that took place in the home. Children's thoughts centered on consequences and efforts to understand why fights occurred. They generally viewed their mother's partner as responsible for violence, though a significant number viewed both parents as playing a role. Sadness and anger were more common than anxiety, and children often attempted to stop or withdraw from fights or both. When asked why family violence occurs, most focused on perpetrators' lack of control of anger or personal characteristics, but approximately one-third viewed victims as provoking aggression. These findings support the idea that children actively attempt to understand the causes and consequences of interparental violence and suggest that their perceptions and interpretations are important for understanding the development of beliefs regarding the use of violence in close relationships. (Published Abstract)