Children exposed to domestic violence suffer immediate and long-term consequences, says research

Children exposed to domestic violence suffer immediate and long-term consequences, says research

Children in the United States are exposed to unacceptable rates of domestic violence, including exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV), parents’ physical abuse of siblings, and other assaults on teens and adults, according to the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV). Quite often, children become victims of violence and are subjected to physical, emotional, verbal or sexual assault or face neglect.

As per the NatSCEV, one in 15 children were exposed to IPV between parents or between a parent and his/her partner; 90 percent of these children directly witnessed the IPV. Although there is no agreement on a definitive number of children exposed to domestic violence or neglect, estimates which are widely quoted range between 3.3 million and 10 million children annually.

Children are likely to bear the scars of such violence, directly or indirectly, throughout their lifetime. The result can be immediate as well as long-term in terms of impairments to their mental, emotional, behavioral, social and physical health, which may worsen without early intervention. Such children often blame themselves for failing to protect their parent or siblings from the violence. Kids may also be manipulated by the abusive parent to victimize the other parent. These circumstances can lead to behavioral issues like low self-esteem, aggression, irritability, helplessness, isolation and embarrassment.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), younger children exposed to domestic violence exhibit symptoms like depression, anxiety, sleep-related problems (nightmares, bed wetting), preference for loneliness, anger/increased aggression, changes in appetite, and bullying or being bullied. Older children and adolescents are likely to abuse substances, withdraw socially, skip school, experience deteriorating grades, and lose interest in school, friends or hobbies.

Significant risk of alcohol/drug abuse, suicide and violent crimes

Children exposed to domestic violence face significant risks as they transition into adolescence and adulthood. According to the Childhood Domestic Violence Association (CDVA), children who witness physical, verbal or emotional abuse during their growing up years have a 50 percent higher likelihood of abusing alcohol and drugs, and a six-time higher likelihood of committing suicide. Such children also have a 74 percent higher likelihood of committing a violent crime against another person. Teenage years of such children may be characterized by high-risk behaviors like binge drinking, intravenous drug use and unsafe sex.

Although youth exposure to IPV is known to increase the risk of substance abuse and other adverse outcomes during adulthood, the limited research which has examined such an association remains largely inconclusive. Past research has found a significant increase in alcohol use problems in early adulthood for adolescent girls exposed to IPV but not for adolescent boys. Another previous study suggested that all types of maltreatment, including physical, emotional or sexual abuse, were related to significantly higher levels of substance use, including alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs, during adolescence.

Early interventions can reduce risks

The involvement of children in instances of domestic violence increases the associated complexity. As per the CDVA, children witnessing domestic violence have a three-time higher likelihood of exhibiting similar behavior during adulthood. Moreover, problematic use of alcohol and other substances during adolescence carries a significant risk of addiction in later life. However, early interventions can mitigate such risks considerably. Trained mental health professionals should evaluate children and adolescents exposed to domestic violence. Recommended treatments can include individual, group or family therapy, while in some cases, medication may also benefit the traumatized youngsters.

Dealing with alcoholism

The misuse of alcohol and other substances may be one of the negative outcomes of childhood victims of domestic violence. For such youngsters, timely interventions in a safe environment are needed. Located in Delta, Utah, White River Academy provides treatment for alcoholism to teen boys aged between 12 and 17 years. Contact our 24/7 helpline or chat online with a representative to locate the best alcohol rehab in Utah providing evidence-based treatment for alcoholism and addiction to other substances.

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