The phrase “domestic violence” typically refers to violence between adult partners. Sadly, it has been estimated that every year between 3.3 and ten million children are exposed to domestic violence in the confines of their own home (Moylan, Herrenkohl, Sousa et al. 2009). According to research conducted by John W. Fantuzzo and Wanda K. Mohr (1999): “Exposure to domestic violence can include watching or hearing the violent events, direct involvement (for example, trying to intervene or calling the police), or experiencing the aftermath (for example, seeing bruises or observing maternal depression)” (Fantuzzo & Mohr, 22). The effects of exposure can lead to behavioral and developmental issues at a young age or interpersonal relationships down the road. It is clear that regardless of the form of domestic violence or its severity the child will undoubtedly be detrimentally affected. This paper will explore the impact this violence has on children.
Exposure to violence in from birth through the age of five, brings about helplessness and terror within a child, which can be attributed to the lack of protection received by the parent. The child can no longer trust their parent as a protector (Lieberman 2007). This lack of trust early in life can bring about serious problems later in life, as there is no resolution to the first psychosocial crisis, trust vs. mistrust. Children who witness domestic violence are at a great loss because their parents are most frightening to them at the stage in life when they are needed the most for support and guidance. The security of the child is shattered as their protector becomes the attacker and the child has nowhere and no one to turn for help (Lieberman 2007).
“Exposure to family … violence is linked with aggressive behavior. One of the theoretical perspectives that explains this link is the social learning theory, according to which children learn from the aggressive models in their environments.” Furthermore, victimization compromises children's ability to normalize their emotions, and in result they may act out aggressively (Margolin & Gordis 2004, 153).
“Posttraumatic stress symptoms and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are important consequences of exposure to violence because they can impair social and behavioral functioning” (Margolin & Gordis 2004, 153). PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened. Research has shown that children exposed to domestic violence demonstrate impaired ability to concentrate, difficulty with schoolwork, and significantly lower scores when their verbal, motor, and cognitive skills were being tested (Fantuzzo & Mohr). It seems as if the academic and cognitive difficulties from exposure affect the child possibly through its impact on psychological functioning. For example, PTSD and depression may hinder with learning and the ability to perform well in the classroom...