Sablehouse (2013) state that all children are affected by the violence in their homes. Regardless of whether or not our children have been physically abused, watching their mother being battered is a frightening experience. Children from violent homes can exhibit a variety of behaviours. Some may “act out” and may be viewed as delinquent. Others work very hard to excel at every endeavour in an attempt to keep the family peace. Living with violence creates intense stress for a child. Within an abusive home, children often become silent victims.
The abusive behaviour may not be directed at them but most children hear or witness the violence from one adult to another the effects of this can be life long and can have a profound effect. Domestic abuse can leave a child without a childhood. They spend the time, they should be playing and learning, in states of panic, anxiety and depression. They are always on guard, watching and waiting for the next event to occur. They never know what will trigger the abuse, and therefore, they never feel safe. They are always worried for themselves, their mother, and their siblings. They may feel worthless and powerless. From an early age a child can pick up on tension in the home such as their mother’s fearfulness when the abuser’s car pulls into the driveway. Obviously, it is very upsetting for children to see one of their parents (or partners) abusing or attacking the other. They often show signs of great distress. According to rcpsych (2013) in relationships where there is domestic violence, children witness about three-quarters of the abusive incidents. About half the children in such families have themselves been badly hit or beaten.
Sexual and emotional abuse are also more likely to happen in these families. In almost one third (30%) of cases, domestic abuse begins or escalates during pregnancy. As a result, there is a link between miscarriages, premature birth and the medical problems that are linked to this (welsh women’s aid p24 2013). When exposed to domestic violence, infants and toddlers learn that parents may be incapable of consistently responding to their needs, which interferes with the development of a strong infant-parent bond. Children become fearful of exploring their world, which may interfere with play and subsequent learning. Domestic abuse can effect a baby’s development, aafp.org (2002) and leave them clingy with bad sleeping patterns. They can be harder to settle due to irritability and can be prone to tantrums. By nursery school age a child may witness the abuse or hear it from another room. Often a child will start to have physical complaints, such as headaches or tummy aches, bedwetting is common as with bad sleeping patterns, nightmares and baby like behavior. Children become desensitized to aggressive behavior and begin to view aggressive, violent behavior as the norm.
They may imitate and learn the negative, unhealthy, abusive attitudes and behaviors of the perpetrator of domestic violence. Once at school age children start to learn the differences between right and wrong in life. They start to develop morals, but this can be effected by seeing abusive behavior in the home, along with the effects above, children can find it hard to build friendships. Eating disorders and attention seeking become part of their lives and bullying can become a problem, either being bullied or becoming the bully themselves. They may experience developmental delays in speech, motor or cognitive skills. They may also use violence to express themselves displaying increased aggression with peers or mother. Once at secondary school the effects can turn more physical this can lead to self-harm, substance abuse, violent thoughts and in some cases suicide. By this age a child will have difficulty with their own relationships. According to (domesticviolenceroundtable.org ,ND) Children who grow up observing their mothers being abused, especially by their fathers, grow up with a role model of intimate relationships in which one person uses intimidation and violence over the other person to get their way. Because children have a natural tendency to identify with strength, they may ally themselves with the abuser and lose respect for their seemingly helpless mother. Intervening is common, by children who live in an abusive home. They try to protect the abused and act as a peacemaker unfortunately this can lead to them being a direct victim and becoming a target for the abuser. A child may also become an abuser themselves, either by force or by a way of coping. If they look up to the abuser/parent as a role model they may copy their behaviour, thinking that this behaviour is acceptable and this is how they should behave.
On the flipside of that it can leave a child thinking that violence is a normal way of life, that to be hit, ridiculed, belittled or beaten is how it should be. They can go on in life to seek out this type of relationship for themselves and as a result the cycle of abuse continues. If there is more than one child in the home the elder may try to take up the position of caretaker in the home, they will try to keep the house happy, fulfilling all the roles they can to try to keep the peace and relieving pressure from the abused. It can also be a way of coping with the abuse, concentrating on other task. A child can also have the added pressure to have to listen to the abused as they offload how they feel. The child is then left with a burden and lots of emotions to deal with, they often have no one to talk to or at least feel they can’t talk to anyone and so they keep it all inside. The abuser can also use the child, they will call the abused telling the child what they think of the abused. This leaves a child confused a child will love both parents and will feel, pulled, emotionally by both parents, even if not intended.
http://www.aafp.org/afp/2002/1201/p2052.html [Accessed 21 10 2013] http://domesticviolenceroundtable.org/effect-on-children.html [Accessed on 20 10 2013} http://www.sablehouse.org/index.php/learning [Accessed on 20 08 2013] http://www.rspsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/parentsonyouthinfo/parentscarers/domesticviolence.aspx [Access 20 10 2013] http://welshwomensaid.org.uk/domesticviolence. [Accessed 20 10 2013]