Growing Up with Domestic Violence
Growing Up with Domestic Violence
Individual research studies have attempted to estimate prevalence rates in greater detail in local communities or regions, based on requests for service. For example, Fantuzzo and Fusco (2007) examined prevalence rates of children's exposure to domestic violence by looking at police reports and data from domestic violence crimes in a large Northeast county in the United States. In total, the study examined 1,517 domestic violence events that occurred in 1 year. Findings indicated that children were present in almost half (43%) of the domestic violence incidents that involved police, with the majority of the children (58%) being younger than 6 years. A total of 999 children were present during a domestic violence event. The majority of children who were present during the incidents saw and heard the violence (60%); a minority only heard (18%) or only saw the violence (5%).
The Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect was the first national survey that attempted to document rates of children's exposure to IPV, in addition to other forms of child abuse and neglect (Trocmé et al., 2005). The survey found an estimated 49,994 child investigations by Child Welfare Services involved children exposed to domestic violence as either the primary or secondary form of abuse. Notably, this figure represents one in five child abuse investigations in Canada. Of those cases of exposure, one third were categorized as a single incident, 13% involved multiple incidents over a period of less than 6 months, and 39% involved multiple incidents over a period longer than 6 months. Just over half (52%) of the children were boys, and 60% were under the age of 7.
Some studies have focused on vulnerabilities of certain populations that may have higher rates of domestic violence due to a number of sociodemographic and cultural factors such as poverty, access to resources, colonization, and fear of reporting on family matters to authority figures. For example, Aboriginal/Native American children are exposed to domestic violence more often than other identified groups of children in North America, a finding consistent with higher reported levels of domestic violence. In Canada, over half (57%) of Aboriginal female victims of domestic violence, compared with 46% of non-Aboriginal female victims, reported that their children saw and/or heard the violence (Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2001). The research on children exposed to IPV should be seen in a larger context of children's vulnerabilities associated with race and poverty that increase the risk of the state intervening through child protection or juvenile justice systems (Children's Defense Fund, 2007).
As mentioned previously, any statistic on prevalence dependent on parent report is likely an underestimation because parents are often unaware that their children are exposed in some manner to violence in the home (Osofsky, 2003; Wolfe, Crooks, Lee, McIntyre-Smith, Jaffe, 2003). Parents may be defensive or minimize the exposure to their children out of fear, or children may hide or make certain that they are not seen by their parents during the violent incident (Jaffe et al., 1990). Furthermore, children may not disclose to their parents or authorities that they saw or heard the violence, for fear of consequences, concern about further upsetting their parents, or sensing that domestic violence is a taboo subject to raise (McAlister-Groves, 2002).
1.4 Course and Prognosis
Exposure to domestic violence is not in itself a mental disorder, although it is linked to serious consequences to a child's mental, physical, emotional, and behavioral well-being. Two separate meta-analyses found that the overwhelming majority of research studies on the impact of exposure to IPV document significantly more emotional and behavioral difficulties than in nonexposed children (Kitzmann, Gaylord, Holt, & Kenny, 2003; Wolfe, Crooks, et al., 2003). T