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How Does Domestic Violence Affect Children?

1872 words - 7 pages

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse, refers to any abuse that takes place among people living in the same household (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online). Domestic violence includes, but is not limited to, spousal abuse and child abuse. Fighting, name-calling, destruction of property, harassment, sexual abuse, the misuse of power and exercise of control (intimidation) over the other person’s finances or actions are all classified as domestic violence. Children tend to be the unintended victims of domestic violence, with not much emphasis on the word ‘unintended’ because there are times when the violence is not just directed towards the parent, but the child or children in the home, especially if the child happens to come to the aid of the abused parent and - intentionally or unintentionally - gets hurt in the process. This is when it really becomes physical child abuse and not only that, exposure to violence almost always carries emotional consequences for children. Children's exposure to intrafamilial violence has been linked with increased aggression, fighting, "meanness," and generally disruptive behavior, depression and more negative self-concept ("Violence, Children's Exposure to"). Studies have shown that both witnessing and/or being a victim of domestic violence may put children at risk for increased anxiety and depressive symptoms ("Violence, Children's Exposure to"). As a result of the emotional and behavioral effects brought on by such abuse, children are more prone to becoming sad and anti-social, suffer from depression and anxiety, and resort to violence due to uncontrollable anger and aggression where they sometimes inflict self-hurt. These conditions can last throughout their childhood and into adulthood, especially when ignored or left untreated.
The emotional and behavioral consequences produced by exposure to domestic violence, overwhelm the child’s sense of safety and security in such a way that it will have adverse effects him or her. Flash-backs of the abuse may occur frequently, accompanied by fear of reliving the trauma, thereby producing Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder includes but is not limited to, diminished concentration, sleep disturbance, sudden startling, and intrusive thoughts ("Violence, Children's Exposure to"). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - Fourth Edition - stipulates that in order for an individual to be diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder, he or she must have experienced or witnessed a life threatening event and reacted with intense fear, helplessness, or horror (DSM-IV; APA, 1994). The traumatic event brings about distressing recollections, there is persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and the victim experiences some form of exaggerated startle response. These symptoms persist for more than one month and cause clinically...

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