Growing Up With Abuse: A Brief Take on the Impact of Domestic Violence on Children
Written By Guest Blogger: Carly Estrela
The world of children all over the planet is one of curiosity, endless questioning about the way things are and why we live the way we do. Most experts, mothers, fathers, caretakers, and teachers would agree that a safe, peaceful environment is most comforting for young ones to explore and learn about the world they’re growing up into.
Now imagine this, your home, the place we as a society long associated with safety and protection is not that place for you. You’re only a child and yet returning home from school makes you feel worried on the bus ride the closer you come to your stop. This unnerving thought is reality for millions of children today that live in the United States. The reason for their fear? They endure domestic violence in their homes. In fact, it is believed that over 5 million children live within homes where domestic violence is a regular part of their lives. A statistic that must be taken as an American atrocity.
Experts agree the effect of living with a parent who is abused by a spouse or intimate partner can emotionally affect children in ways as if they were being abused directly. Some children may develop a strong resiliency to their violent home life under specific protective factors, however this is not typical. Most children who witness domestic violence suffer from a range of behavioral, social, and emotional issues. Such issues include:
- High levels of anxiety
- Aggressive behaviors
- withdrawal from peers
- Learning disabilities
- Excessive need for attention
- Self-blame, helplessness and low self-esteem.
Children may feel unable to express themselves, ashamed and confused by their home life, and terrified into keeping their “family secret”. Without intervention, this pattern may not end in the specific home and with the individual child as they age and mature. Long term problems for teenagers and adults from violent homes continue to affect their lives, even after relocation from the abusive home life. It may interest readers to know that in general, the gender of the child can be a determinant in which psychological maladaptations they will suffer. For example, girls who live in abusive homes more frequently exhibit internalized behaviors like depression and withdrawal, where as boys from similar homes frequently exhibit more externalized behaviors like aggression and acting out.
In our mission to end domestic violence and sexual assault, a key and innate part of the problem we must take on are the attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that perpetuate the problem. Research has shown us that men who grew up in homes where domestic violence was a “norm” are more likely to be abusive in intimate partner relationships as adults, similarly adult women from abusive homes are more likely to be victimized by abusive partners. Just as we know that there are cycles of abuse for individuals, there are also sociological cycles that contribute to the prominence of domestic violence in across generations.
We, as a society can all be a part of the solution to end this cycle. Children from abusive homes are not willed to the cycle of abuse forever and with the proper nurture they can be treated for their post-traumatic symptoms and effectively have love and care restored to their lives. Organizations like New Hope can help you learn more about indicators of abuse and help options if you or someone you know either suspects or knows of children being exposed to domestic violence. Through the eyes of a child, there is no other world beyond your family, your home and your community. It shouldn’t be their responsibility to protect themselves or their own family members from abuse. Enriching our communities with education and awareness of this problem is a proven way to reduce it. It’s never too late to find out how you can help.