Domestic violence between parents affects children too PDF Print E-mail
Written by JORDAN CRAVENS Sentinel Staff Writer   
Thursday, 01 November 2012 11:45
At least one-third of American children have witnessed violence between their parents. And in many households where parents are being abused, children are, too.
Witnessing such violence can trigger traumatic reactions in children and can have long-term impacts on their development, said Dr. Noelle Duvall, a psychologist at the Children's Resource Center in Bowling Green.
Duvall spoke Wednesday at the Women's Center at Bowling Green State University to conclude domestic violence awareness month.
Witnessing domestic violence, Duvall said, can create intense fear in children, a feeling of helplessness, agitation and disorganization. It can also create attachment issues for children, changes in their brains and make it difficult for them to regulate emotions.
When it comes to attachment, children who have witnessed domestic violence have problems with boundaries; are hesitant to look to adults for attention and support; can have their sense of security destroyed; be uncertain about the reliability and predictability of their life; and have difficulty forming trusting relationships.
In some cases, a child will push away from an adult as soon as they get close.
"You are kind of holding on as strong as you can with one hand and pushing away with the other hand," she explained.
There are also biological impacts.
"We know that trauma changes the function of the brain for these children," she said.
Regulating their own emotions can also be problematic.
"Another thing you will see with these kids who have experienced trauma is that they may use aggression to try and get control," she said.
The way they view themselves can be skewed. They can feel powerless or helpless and blame themselves for not being able to prevent the violence, prevent the police from showing up at their house, or from having to move multiple times to escape the violence, Duvall said.
Adverse childhood experiences, like domestic violence, can also have long-term impacts, Duvall said, citing a study. They are more prone to depression and suicide, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, delinquent behavior and serious job problems. They are also more likely to continue the domestic violence cycle.
But there are ways to counteract these prolonged impacts, Duvall said.
A strong social support system, a positive relationship with a caring adult, including the non-violent parent, and fostering a strong self-esteem can assist in a child's development.
"Always looking at the preventative factors and how we can change this trajectory for the child ... and get them going in a more positive direction," she said.

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