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Damaged: How Domestic Violence Shapes A Child

by: Ruth Purple

Domestic violence-also known as domestic or spousal abuse- has become increasingly prevalent in modern culture. Typically associated with violent physical aggression between intimate adults, it can also involve sexual, emotional, economic, and psychological abuse. The devastating effects of the abuse on adult victims are well documented as most of the systems in place in our society are geared towards them.

Domestic abuse, however, has other silent victims. Studies have shown that males who batter their partners are also likely to batter their children and it is estimated that around 3 million youngsters are exposed to violent behavior at home every year. Children from abusive homes are also more prone to be sexually and physically abused and are generally more neglected than those in non-abusive dwellings.

In the light of these disturbing realities, a question arises: How does domestic violence shape a child? Violence is always distressing for children to see; more so when it occurs inside the home, where they are supposed to feel protected and safe. The impact of family violence depends largely on the child’s age and gender— an infant reacts differently to stressful situations than a toddler, a boy maybe me more aggressive in his response compared to a girl.

But whatever a child’s age and gender is, the abuse affects every facet of his development—emotional, behavioral, social, and physical. Emotional problems arising from domestic violence include feelings of abandonment and insecurity, guilt, conflicting attitude towards parents, familial shame, and suppressed anger. Thus an infant can be prone to irritability and incessant crying, while a toddler may develop extreme separation anxiety and fear of being alone.

Guilt can also move one to punish oneself by indulging in self-harm. These troubling emotions become more internalized—and more serious— as a child enters adolescence. Feelings of helplessness triggers depression, and depression cultivates feelings of helplessness. A vicious cycle of emotional instability thus ensues. Behavioral problems are also evidence of a traumatic childhood. A child may become erratic--he might excessively crave attention one moment and be indifferent the next; he can be extremely vocal and then lapse into total silence; he may vacillate between aggressiveness and passivity in a matter of minutes.

Bedwetting is also noticeable, as well as, night terrors. As a child grows older, these errant behaviors become more externalized leading to substance abuse and alcoholism, two popular forms of escapism. Physical symptoms of abuse includes psychosomatic complaints such as headaches and stomachaches, fatigue, lethargy, recurrent illness, and poor personal hygiene.

Socially, he may show an inability to trust, poor social skills characterized by introvert-ness and isolation, pitiable anger management skills, and poor problem solving abilities. Domestic violence can also distort a child's perception of what is acceptable conduct and what is not. Someone who is repeatedly exposed to violent behavior is likely to exhibit such actions himself.

Cruelty to animals and bullying are common outlets of aggression. In later life, it is not unusual for the abused child to become the abuser himself and for the victim to be the perpetrator of the crimes he once endured. This, perhaps, is the most disquieting effect of family violence.

While the list discussed above is by no means exhaustive, it gives us a glimpse into how violence in the home can impact a child’s physical, emotional and psychological development. Recognizing this fact is a significant step towards tackling the problem. Breaking the destructive cycle of domestic violence is a challenge, but it is the only way we can provide nurturing homes to our children where they can flourish into the well balanced individuals that they are meant to be.

See Also:

Domestic Violence and Child Abuse
The statistics indicate that when one parent, typically the male, is abusive to the other parent, the children are more likely to be abused as well.

Benefits from the Domestic Violence Classes
The goal of domestic violence classes is to make the sufferer and performer recognize that domestic violence is an intolerable behavior. Every human has the right to live free from abuse, intimidation and violence. The perpetrator is 100% liable for his abusive behavior.

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About the Author:

The author of this article, Ruth Purple , is a Relationship and Dating Expert. Conquer Infidelity and Experience a Happier Love Life through her New eBook.

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