Children`s Exposure to Violence


Children’sExposure to Violence

Children’s Exposure to Violence

Violencecan be defined in a number of ways, especially on its effects onchildren. Some of the main categories of violence investigated are(a) Child mistreatment, which includes physical abuse, neglect, andsexual abuse (b) aggression between the child’s parents and (c)violence in the community, which involve witnessing of violence anddirect victimization. Despite the high co-occurrence rates amongexposure to different violence types, American PsychologicalAssociation (2011) highlighted some of his works which typicallyexamines child abuse, community violence, and domestic violenceseparately. Violence is regarded as a public-health problem, and thechildren in particular, are vulnerable to its effects. Besidesviolence being the main source of injury, what takes a toll isviolence on more subtle functioning aspects. These aspects arebehavioral, social, cognitive, and emotional functioning. In thesedomains, their disruptions can affect progression of the childrenthrough developmental processes.

Since exposureto violence occurs typically in more familiar settings, the safefamily havens and the community are marred by danger. The parents maynot be able to prevent this violence on children, again, theythemselves may be the perpetrators, victims, or they themselves areaffected in ways that could compromise their caretaking. Depressingconsequences of violence may as well include relocation of family orbreakup following disclosure of abuses (American PsychologicalAssociation, 2011). Children living under violent conditions mayexperience instances of family conflicts and other stresses, such asparents’ unemployment, poverty, parents’ abuse of substance andpsychopathology. The paper therefore, will discuss the effects of aviolent household on children and their development. From this, arethere specific treatments that can help lessen these effects?

Effectsof Violence on Children and their Development

Witnessingviolence within the household undermines a child’s basic sense ofgrowth and development. They may believe adults to be harmful beingsor are unable to protect them. Children who live in fear mayexperience difficulty in delayed trust on relationships with theirparents (APA, 2011). There is a thin line between children’sexposure to violence, behavioral, and emotional problems. Continuousexposure to violence within the household affects children’s evenbefore they can talk. Young children who witness instances ofviolence within the household reveal increasing irritability,developmental regression, immature behavior, and rise in fears. NAEYC(2001) observes that these children tend to cling to their parents,develop temper tantrums and difficulty in separating with theirparents. All these have hampered their developmental process, butwhat are these effects of violence on children development?

  1. Short-Term Effects

Although different types of violence have its own literature, studiesthat have been carried out show a few common short term effects onchildren. In a household setting, children exposed to any kind ofviolence may exhibit certain behavioral disorders for example,aggression and delinquency, mood and emotional disorders such asanxiety and depression nightmares and flashbacks, posttraumaticstress such as exaggerated startle, and health-related difficultiesand somatic symptoms such as disturbances during sleep (BritishPsychological Society, 2003). Some forms of household violence seemto have specific consequences. Sexual acting out, for example,sometimes develops specific consequences such as sexual abuse.Exposure to other kinds of violence however, may also lead to thiskind of problem. Connections are also not theoretically salient andnot all connections have been investigated.

Children exposure to violence within a family or community isconnected with aggressive behavior exhibited from the children. Onetheoretical perspective that explains this is linked with a sociallearning theory. According to the theory, children are able to learnthese aggressive behavioral models from the violent householdenvironment. In addition, victimization within a household, maycompromise ability of the children to control their emotions. Thesechildren, as a result, may act out in an aggressive manner (AmericanPsychological association, 2002). Physical abuse, exposure toviolence, and sexual abuse between the parents within a householdsetting, have are linked to aggressive behavior, with connectionsparticularly well-documented for physical and sexual abuse.

Studies document links, according to Educational PublishingFoundation (2002), between exposure to problems such as anxiety anddepression and violence. A child, for example, may interpretinstances of violence while at home and within the community, to meanthat he or she may be unworthy of protection since he or she view theworld to be unsafe. This kind of interpretation may influence theirhelplessness, while it leads to negative perceptions. Violence withinthe household are linked to depression and anxiety in children.However, one issue on methodology includes frequent intra-familialand extra-familial violence.

Posttraumatic symptoms of stress and disorder (PTSD) representimportant consequences of violence exposure since they can impairbehavioral and social functioning of children. A lot of children, whodo not experience diagnostic PTSD criteria, may develop troublesomesymptoms. Sexual and physical abuse and domestic violence exposure onchildren are link with symptoms of posttraumatic stress on thechildren (DCYFS, 2001). The rate, at which exposure to violenceresults in symptoms of posttraumatic stress in children, may varydepending on the degree of violence and intensity. This degree andintensity of such violence has lasting effects on the children withinthe household. Violence within the household is also resulted tocognitive and academic difficulties, most possible through children’spsychological functioning PTSD and depression, for example, mayinterfere with learning process and ability to do well in classroom.Neglect from the family, has a specific negative impact on cognitiveand academic performance of the children.


Fewstudies in this area have explored chances of increase in violenceexposure during childhood, either perpetrating or just being victimof aggression in adulthood. From American Psychological Association(2011) study on children who had been exposed to instances ofviolence in the household between their parents. It was found outthat the parents were more likely to be the cause for violence onanother adult and in turn be treated with violence. This will bedifferent to children during childhood who had not been exposed toviolence. The study showed that those children who were abusedphysically during their childhood experienced higher rate of injuringtheir partner. NAEYC (2001) however, reviewed early on of hisprospective studies that showed that although a history of violenceand abuse increases chances of abuse towards the children from a mere5% to approximated 25%. Again, approximated 70% of the childrenexposed to violence within a household turned out to be less abusiveor not at all when they are adults. Moreover, American PsychologicalAssociation (1996) concluded that victimization during too childhood,increases the risk of mental health behavior and criminal behavior.

One importantconsideration to long-term developmental process is the manner inwhich violence alters its typical course. Risk taking, for example,typically increases when children are developing. With long-termeffects of violence on children, it is possible that such exposure isclosely associated with prolonged risk taking. Moreover, studiesidentify instances of developmental process to be underlying linkagesbetween long-term exposure to criminally-associated violence andlater on with developmental problems. Whether short-term effects areseen to exhibit cognitive difficulties, emotional dysregulations, andaltercations in worthy relationships, these effects thereforeincreases risk for two important tasks: establishment of supportivepeer network and effective habits within the household. Disruption ofsuch tasks places the children at risk, which include failure inschool, involvement with wayward peers, depression, and unwantedbehaviors.

In addition todirect affects, violence exposure within the household compromisepersonal relationships of the children. Because parents within thehousehold represent an important source of social support, disruptedparenting associated with violence within the family could exacerbatenegative effects of exposure to violence. More generally, thosechildren exposed to violence are often sensitized to interactivehostility. They therefore experience difficulty negotiating peerconflicts (British Psychological Society, 2003). These long-termdifficulties experienced with their interpersonal relationships canrob the children off their social strength and support. In addition,it also increases risk from association with their deviant peers.

Frompsychological approach to exposure of violence, long-term effectsinvolve disturbances in sexual and physical development of the child.Stress in children may be elevated to certain levels of gonadallevels. These effects may occur during the children’s pubertystage, which in turn elevate level of sexual behavior continuouslylinked to sexual violence (Cheney &amp Barringer, 1995). Moreover,factors that is associated with increased levels of sympatheticactivity in the nervous system, which include catecholamine andhormone neurotransmitter activity. These appear to have suppressedimmune functions, which could even damage the brain cells of thechildren. This brain cells are responsible for normal functioning ofthe brain and improvement in memory. Abused children in violenceprone household are known to develop long term alterations in normalpatterns of growth hormones.

Moreover, whenchildren within a household, observe certain levels of aggressionbetween their parents and are directly affected, they end upperceiving conflict and aggression to be particularly threatening inthe long run. As a result, these children end up developingdifficulty in regulating their own hypervigilance and emotionallevels in those associated with personal conflict. SPSSI (2005) foundout that hostility between parent and child in a household hasexacerbated aggression effects on children’s distress between theirparents, especially during family meetings.

Psychologically,since families are more of interconnection of subsystems, violence ina single subsystem can spill over and affected to another familysubsystem. Although genetic and family factors can predispose a childto behave aggressively with one or more family member, perspectivefrom one family member can suggest that one kind of violence exposureto children would end up overwhelming one family system. In addition,such scenario would end up depleting physical and emotionalresources, while lowering down aggression threshold in more than onefamily system. The aforementioned exposure of violence on childrenhas impacted on children in a number of ways. But what are thespecific treatments that can assist to lessen these effects?

Treatmentsto Lessen Effects of Exposure of Violence on Children’s Development

Some of the adverse effects that impact on children exposure toviolence are the PTSD symptoms, depression, and long-term trauma onchildren. Treatment should first start with safety. This should bedone by first addressing issues within the household. This ofteninvolves working with the children exposed to violence in order todiscuss options to put into consideration. When addressing safetychallenges, shelters, legal advocacy, and agencies such as domesticviolence services are some of the good resources. One way to improvesafety to these children is to ensure that the parent if safe. Tohelp children develop specific strategy for ensuring safety is togive them a sense of approval and control (American PsychologyAssociation, 2001).

Secondly, treatment to lessen the children effects is to seekassistance from counseling and mental centers that are affordable tothe family affected by effects of domestic violence. These familiesoften require more than just therapy they also need advocacy andcase management that would assist them to navigate complexities ofthe legal system. In addition, such assistance would help them obtainresources and support to the children in order to help them maintainsecurity and safety. Kathleen (2004) observes that it is importantthat treatment of these traumatic children with mental healthproblems be provided in a comprehensive context that would be ofgreat assistance.

Treatment offered to these children should also include individualtherapy and treatments referred to as dyadic. One importantintervention component with the victims is the first priority givenin support of strengthening the existing relationship between thechildren and parents. Most of the children are preferred to beassisted with the parent since they provide a key factor in theirrecovery of domestic violence. It should be noted that the choice oftreatment is dependent on the age of the child, severity and natureof the reaction on the child’s trauma, the availability andcircumstances of the parents. This treatment provides the children,whether in a group of individual, with the right information thatconcerns domestic violence. This would help in normalizing theirexperiences and reduce their feeling of isolation.

Most agencies on children exposure to violence, for example domesticviolence service, offer psychoeducational service as a form oftreatment. This is an important tool that ensures the children arestabilized and assist them to not have a feeling of isolation fromtheir fears. Treatment of metal health can provide the children achance to talk freely about making sense of their traumaticexperiences with the counselor (American Psychology Association,2002). Cognitive distortions may be observed in children or even asense of misunderstanding especially with blaming the victims orthemselves who attempt to come to come to their rescue. In thissituation, these children are often torn between choosing betweentheir parents and feelings of love for both of them. Treatment forthis scenario is corrected with a specialized therapist. Therapistsare often in a better position to lessen children’s conflicts. Thishelps the children and the therapist to come into an understanding onwhat exactly the children are experiencing as well as the elements inwhich the experience appears to be more disturbing and why.

In conclusion, interventions for what the children undergo includeindividual and group counseling. These counselors offer services onchildren exposed to domestic violence. There are also interventioncenters available, where come of them serve its clients free ofcharge. Others have been mandated by programs such as criminaljustice system to help the children. It should also be noted that itis not recommended to engage abusers and victims to family treatmentssince a sense of honesty for participation may be tempered with.Because children are known to maintain power psychological ties withboth their parents, to involve them in therapeutic treatments wouldprovide an opportunity to address directly the exposure of violenceon children.


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