According to the statistics, each year, millions of children are exposed to violence in their homes, neighborhood, at schools, or through the media. The data indicate that about 25%-30% of children experience violence annually (Kitzmann, 2005). While there is much information related to the impact of domestic violence on children, less is known about its demographics. Although the term violence has often been used in the context of physical abuse, in relation to children, it involves physical, verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse that is channeled towards a minor (Jouriles & Norwood, 1995).
This essay is going to analyze the domestic violence as a form of trauma that children experience. It was estimated that about 3.3 million children and another 10 million still live in houses where domestic violence is a common thing (Chemtob & Carlson, 2004). The paper will look at the specific demographics that is affected by the problem, identify the extent and factors that contribute to its spread, and outline the general community reaction towards the trauma. The second section of the essay will discuss the effective intervention plans that can be adopted to deal with the issue and some of the barriers to the processes and also indicate the most effective techniques based on the researched evidence when it comes to responding to domestic violence.
Demographics on Domestic Violence
In the United States, domestic violence has been a major concern for a very long time. As research indicates, it is estimated that 30 % of the married couples have admitted that at least once they experienced spousal violence during their marriage. However, it should be considered that many cases often go unreported due to the fear of societal discrimination among other factors; thus, the figures could even be higher (Katz & Low, 2004). It is evident that the families that are characterized by women battering face an increased risk of the parents using physical, verbal, and emotional abuse (Swank et al., 1998). Additionally, it is evident that domestic violence and child abuse are two interrelated factors that should be handled with a lot of care because human lives are at stake. It was discovered that children who have been exposed to family violence often suffer trauma, for instance, post-traumatic stress disorders such as nightmares and bed-wetting; they also risk developing allergies, flu and gastrointestinal problems (Kitzmann, 2005).
Nature of the Trauma
Consequently, considering the extent of harm that can be caused by the frequent exposure of a child to the different forms of domestic violence, it is obvious that this complex trauma can completely destroy the life and early development of the young person. The reasons why it is a complex trauma because when a pregnant woman is occasionally subjected to domestic violence, she becomes more vulnerable to mental or psychological damages that, in turn, may affecting her child (Levendosky, Leahy, Bogat, Davidson, & von Eye, 2006). From the above, it is, therefore, evident that the impact of domestic violence extends far from infancy to adult life. The reason is that children who have been brought up in violent families usually tend to exhibit anxiety, depression, aggression, and hyperactive behavior (Chemtob & Carlson, 2004). Additionally, the complexity of children’s experience related to violence is also proved by the existing statistics.
The Most Vulnerable Groups
Women and children are the population categories most affected by domestic violence. The National Violence Against Women survey indicates that in the United States alone, about 835 000 women experience violence from a former or current partner on an annual basis; additionally, most of the violence cases tend to occur in an intimate relationship (Chemtob & Carlson, 2004). Although men have also been often exposed to domestic violence, the risk of injury is considerably higher among females compared to males. Children, on the other hand, are likely to develop various psychological problems such as stress when they hear their parents are threatened (Fosco, DeBoard, & Grych, 2007).
Regarding how gender is related to domestic violence, Ernest and William state that the gender of the child is likely to influence the woman being battered making her display aggression towards the child (Jouriles & Norwood, 1995). It means that in the families accustomed to extreme violence, boys usually become the victims of abuse or aggression more often compared to girls. Therefore, boys tend to experience more problems than girls do. When a child constantly faces domestic violence, aggression, violence, and other negatives are channeled towards him.
Factors of the Trauma Influencing the Symptoms
One of the main consequence of domestic violence children suffer from is the physical abuse. It includes choking, hitting, using some objects to hit, and slapping among others. This shows that children who witness domestic violence at their homes are likely to suffer from many physical symptoms that may in the long-run also affect their emotions and behaviors (Swank et al., 1998). It is assumed that irregular sores and bedwetting are also likely to show depression. Regarding the mother-child relationship, domestic violence tends to damage it because it assaults the caregiving system as a result triggering the feeling of fear and helplessness in the child (Chemtob & Carlson, 2004).
On the mother’s side, violence tends to instill emotional dysregulation that, in turn, affects maternal representation (Levendosky, Leahy, Bogat, Davidson, & von Eye, 2006). This happens because, at times, perpetrators tend to use children as a form of control tactics against each other. For example, one parent can physically hold the child as a hostage to punish the other partner or gain compliance. Secondly, some partners have often claimed that the child’s bad behavior is the reason for the violence thus putting stress on the child (Holt et al., 2012).
The second impact of domestic violence is behavioral. In a research conducted to examine the relationship between domestic violence and expressing behaviors, it was discovered that the exposure to domestic violence impact the future relationship and dating (Levendosky, Bogat, & Huth-Bocks, 2011). The same findings were supported by another article that showed that biological developmental problems causing domestic violence are linked to neurological, psychological, and physiological system of an individual. Because of this, it is, therefore, true to state that the children who had been exposed to domestic violence will be aggressive and anti-social in the future.
Children brought up by aggressive parents, when faced with relationship problems, will view violence as the best remedy to settle their problems instead of looking for peaceful ways to manage the issue. Early indicators of such a problem include acting tough, bed wetting, and disrupting adults while they speak (Jouriles & Norwood, 1995). Other behavioral challenges that are associated with domestic violence include substance and self-abuse as well as suicide. Children who experienced violence often refrain from social activities such as inviting their friends; instead, they spend their free time at home or away from home in seclusion (Kitzmann, 2005).
Mental and Cognitive Effects
The mental or cognitive abilities of the child are often also affected. If to compare the academic performance of children from normal families and those who face violence, it is seen that the latter record lower grades. Additionally, they tend to miss school. Another major challenge is related to the development of self-esteem. Children raised in violent homes tend to suffer stress and depression; when engaged by their peers in games or discussions, they are likely to shy away due to the fear of victimization. This, in turn, results in psychological problems, for example, they are likely to consider suicide as a way to end the suffering (Levendosky, Bogat, & Huth-Bocks, 2011).
Psychological abuse may entail harsh statements and threats; additionally, it may also lead to isolation, emotional abuse, and economic threats. The children start feeling unwanted and unloved; as a result, they may develop distrust towards their parents. At this stage, shame and low self-esteem are common because the children feel helpless and hopeless (Jouriles & Norwood, 1995). In a classroom setting, such a child will respond with anger even in calm situations. Similarly, post-traumatic disorders are likely to accompany other signs such as problems with concentration, insomnia, and nightmares.
Community Reaction to Domestic Violence and Its Impact
Domestic violence often triggers a mixed reaction with some people pointing fingers at the spouses for damaging the young one's lives. Even when such cases are reported to the relevant authorities, they are not dealt with appropriately because the society expects couples to solve their problems peacefully themselves (Jouriles & Norwood, 1995). There have been numerous child protection groups that have been formed to safeguard the right of children especially those in violent or irresponsible families. In managing the condition and ensuring that the children can resume and live a happy life, these groups employ effective intervention.
The society is also being encouraged to report any cases of violence against children by engaging the relevant organizations. Similarly, many children in schools are also being taught certain social skills to enable them to detect what constitutes family violence and report it to the nearest authority (Levendosky, Leahy, Bogat, Davidson & von Eye, 2006). The whole society is against domestic violence. Therefore, there are tough penalties imposed on the parents whose actions negatively affect the well-being of their children. Globally, during the international children’s day, parents and the society at large are encouraged to safeguard the health of their children because they are the future leaders and noble citizens.
Strategies of Plan and Intervention
Intensive Filial Therapy Treatment
One of the most effective evidence-based interventions to deal with the domestic violence is the Intensive Filial Therapy that was developed from filial therapy invented by Bernard and Louise Guerney in the 1960s (Smith & Landreth, 2003). The objective of the technique was to allow parents to have a central role in treating their child by making use of the already existing bond between them. It resembles a social group and is, therefore, aimed at strengthening their relationship that could have been broken. Research recommends using Intensive Filial Therapy for both severe and normal cases because it promotes positive change and is also very effective. There are several reasons of its effectiveness. For instance, using this technique, a therapist learns how to supervise and train parents keeping in mind that the whole approach is child-centered.
Effectiveness of the Technique
Intensive Filial Therapy is rather effective because in this case, because the parent is already known and familiar to the child. Thus, the minimum time is needed to create a bond between the children and parents unlike in other interventions where it takes a longer time to create the tie. Additionally, it is also cost-effective when it comes to the adoption of a long-lasting changes in relation to the child and family. This approach is used in various settings and has yielded very positive result as far as the management of depression, anxiety, and other emotional and psychological distress is concerned.
The Modalities Used
The modalities used in this technique involve pre- and post-test as well as non-treatment comparison groups (Smith & Landreth, 2003). The self-concept is measured by incorporating pictures aimed at stimulating the child’s response. In this case, any choice that shows a positive response from the child is defined by a score. Additionally, there is a strong emphasis on the parents’ empathic behavior. The behaviors measured include how effectively he or she is communicating and how this shows acceptance, involvement, and self-direction abilities (Smith & Landreth, 2003). These behavior patterns are used to demonstrate empathy when it comes to the parents’ interaction with the child; when the three are combined, it constitutes the total score. Additionally, the intervention demands that it is important to acknowledge that the mother is also experiencing stress; thus, there is the need to adopt numerous techniques. The example of these modifications includes providing demonstration and supervision.
Phases of Recovery
Unlike filial therapy that takes about ten weeks, Intensive Filial Therapy is a short version that lasts up to 2-3 weeks with half an hour sessions (Smith & Landreth, 2003). Additionally, the training sessions have been divided adequately to give room for enough playtime depending on the parents’ willingness and available time. The first phases of recovery in Intensive Filial Therapy Treatment for survivor usually begin with psychoeducation for the parents. At this stage, it is usually common that the child shows a negative attitude.
At the second stage, sessions become more intense; after 4-5 sessions, the parent can exercise command, for instance, by playing games such as “Simon Says”. Additionally, at this stage, the two can develop an improved understanding between each other and freely express themselves. Once the parent has showed increased understanding, the next stage is for the facilitator to encourage discussing the experiences (Kolos, Green, & Crenshaw, 2009). This will be effective in helping them to manage anxiety. The final stage is usually characterized by the emergence or creation of a strong feeling and a balanced bond between the two.
Barriers to the Implementation
The potential barriers to the implementation of Intensive Filial therapy include the lack of parents’ knowledge on how to effectively care for the child. This is usually the case when parents are very young or have a history of drug abuse. Secondly, another challenge to the successful implementation includes the lack of resources to be used to enforce the relationship. Besides, stereotype views discourage parents from approaching or seeking help with their relations or marriage affairs. Additionally, unwillingness of the other partner has been one of the major barriers.
At times, the child may not be able to understand the reason why his or her parents are departing. In such a case, the child may require that both parents are present. In such a case, when the father cannot make it to the session, it can slow down the healing process. As such, considerable time has to be spent explaining this to the child and helping him or her adopt or find a friend to play the figurative role. Additionally, due to the fear of the child and other emotional and psychological concerns, the child’s behavior can also serve as a barrier. It is, therefore, evident that despite the effectiveness of the technique, the approach on its own requires the active involvement of all the stakeholders for it to yield fruits.
Intensive Individual Play Therapy
The second important effective evidence-based intervention to deal with domestic violence is the intensive individual play therapy. This approach is mainly adopted and is effective for children aged from 3 to 11 years who are experiencing or have experienced domestic violence (Smith & Landreth, 2003). The major difference distinguishing it from intensive filial therapy is that this technique involves time collapsing of the sessions and, as a result, gives the child maximum time to recover.
Effectiveness of the Approach
The effectiveness of this approach lies in the fact that the treatment makes use of the natural, self-guided, and hearing processes. Additionally, it is effective because in most cases, children usually communicate what they have experienced through their methods of playing. The approach is often seen as a form of counseling with the only difference being that in this case, the play is the mode of communication between the facilitator, the child, and other help people. The resultant effect is that it will aid in increasing social integration, emotional development, and trauma management. Similarly, the therapy is usually recommended because it can be used to diagnose possible cases of domestic violence while the child is at school. When the child shows reluctance to interact with others while in school, it is an indication of a problem at home; thus, the proper corrective measures need to be adopted.
The modalities used in this technique include the non-directive and directive techniques. In a non-directive method, children are the ones who come up with their solution to the challenge through the play. Consequently, the directive approach is more structural, and the therapist looks upon how the child copes with the difficulties through the way how they play. In this case, there are, however, no distinguishable phases of recovery because the intensive individual play therapy looks upon the child to show a signal of domestic violence through the play expecting the facilitator to come up with the proper mechanism to respond to the challenge.
Barriers to the Technique
Critics of the technique have often cited several barriers, for instance, those related to its efficiency especially considering how domestic violence affects the child both emotionally and psychologically. Secondly, it is not a very inclusive technique as it tends to be more effective when it comes to detecting episodes of violence instead of managing the condition (Smith & Landreth, 2003). To attain a good result, it is, therefore, important to use the method alongside many other interventions.
In conclusion, it is evident that domestic violence exposes children to many dangers. The impact of domestic violence on the young generation includes the psychological, psychosocial, and emotional consequences. Emotionally, domestic violence at home tends to cause fear as psychologically, the child associates it with depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem while socially the child is incapable of communicating with his or her peers. Similarly, it is evident that domestic violence is associated with the future relationship and dating because the children who have been exposed to domestic violence view it as the best remedy to settle their problems instead of looking for peaceful alternatives. Instead of exposing children to a lot of problems such as isolation, emotional abuse, and economic threats, effective interventions need to be adopted to ensure that the children are protected. Some of the strategies that can be used include Intensive Filial Therapy that entails the parents taking a central role in treating their child through the already existing bond between them that closely resembles social group approach. Alternatively, another evidence-based approach is the individual play that employs the way how the child is playing or interacting with others to come up with the corrective management strategy.