Intimate partner violence, widely recognized as domestic violence, can be best defined as “a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors including physical, sexual and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion used by adults or adolescents against their current or former intimate partners” (“Behind Closed Doors: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children” 3). It is no secret that children desperately need safety and security within their homes and the love and care of their parents. However, it is a bitter truth that a great number of children do not have a haven-like home. It is unfortunate that these children witness and experience domestic violence at home. As a consequence, the persistent physical and psychological abuses inflict a long lasting impact on their lives. Thus, the contemporary era is challenged with domestic violence as one of the most prevalent human right violations. It needs to be mentioned that violence at home is actually a worldwide menace with no geographical, status, or ethnical boundaries. Domestic violence has both direct and indirect effects on children whereby children go through physical, psychological, emotional, and behavioral problems.
There are numerous risks and challenges faced by children who undergo and/or witness abuse and assault in their homes. Both child abuse and domestic violence has a close linkage as the perpetuators of violence often assault children. Therefore, there is always a considerable threat of escalating damage to the emotional, physical, social, and psychological development of children exposed to the mentioned violence.
Effects on Emotional Wellbeing
It needs to be mentioned that toddlers and young girls and boys have a higher probability of experiencing violence at home (“Behind Closed Doors: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children” 4). As a result of the unbearable emotional stress, they are at a higher risk of having damaged brain development, cognitive impairment, and poor sensory growth. In addition, their behavioral patterns are also hampered due to the excessiveness of abusive treatment they experience. A majority of these children demonstrate extreme touchiness, disobedience, bad temper, fear of isolation, problems in sleeping, immaturity, and emotional suffering. Furthermore, a lot of such children exhibit a lack of toilet training. Similarly, children witnessing abusive treatment within homes frequently show “lower cognitive functioning, poor school performance, lack of conflict resolution skills, inadequate problem-solving skills, acceptance of violent behaviors and attitudes, and belief in rigid gender-role stereotypes” (Finley 77). In addition, their language acquisition skills are also obstructed if they repeatedly witness and/or undergo obnoxious maltreatment.
During early years, the brain of a child starts to progressively become ‘hard-wired’. This phenomenon facilitates the bodily and psychosomatic functioning of the child in the later years. When children are continuously exposed to violent treatment and abusive behaviors, this development is profoundly threatened. As stated, growing up in such offensive environments inflicts both long term and short term effects on the mind and bodies of children. In the same manner, their social skills and academic performance are also affected tremendously. Children going to primary schools face more difficulties in understanding and completing school assignments. This is because their concentration and observation skills are poor. According to a study, approximately 40% children growing in violent homes demonstrated poor reading skills as compared to children belonging to non-violent domestic settings (“Behind Closed Doors: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children” 7).
Effects on Behavioral Development
Behavioral and personality problems among such children can later originate as depressive behaviors, mental illnesses, bed-wetting, and inclination towards the commitment of suicide. In mature years, children belonging to violent homes have an increased predisposition towards involvement in criminal activities, prostitution, juvenile pregnancy, assault, and substance abuse. Moreover, these children also go through problems in their sexual lives during mature phases of life. Similarly, their aggressive, oppositional, and belligerent behavior also makes it difficult for them to retain jobs or remain unemployed (Flowers 89).
It is extremely important to note here that children exposed to domestic violence are more likely to later behave aggressively and abusively towards their lovers and wives. According to them, it is alright to express their aggression and anger as a sign of dominance and power over their partners. They think that violence is a workable idea if they want their partner to follow their wishes and demands. Viewing women and children as submissive and powerless is a major driving factor that results in such violent behaviors. However, it needs to be understood that this behavior is learned especially if the child consistently witnesses and experiences violence at home.
Effects on the Development of Social Skills
Domestic violence weakens the social associations and ties of children. Their emotions and social lives are encircled by anxiety, dejection, fear, and gloominess due to the poor treatment they endure. Physical, emotional, and verbal abuse make it impossible for children to handle day-to-day issues as their lives are dominated by helplessness and melancholy. As adults, they have poor conflict-resolution and problem-solving skills. Bitterness, guiltiness, self-harm, and introversion are several other effects that can be widely demonstrated by such children when they become adults (Hester 64).
Effects on Physical Health
As far as physical effects are concerned, children are both directly and indirectly posed to suffer physical abuse at the hands of the senseless perpetuators. In general, physical abuse involves slapping, spanking, and whipping the innocent souls. In many cases, children also go through sexual abuse when they are used for sexual gratification. Children also become indirect victims of physical abuse when the oppressor throws household items. Infants have a higher risk of receiving injuries “if the mother is holding the infant when the abuser strikes out, or older children may receive injuries while protecting their mother” (McCue 24). Other physical symptoms exhibited by such children include asthma, depression, headaches, enuresis, temperamental issues, lower, cognitive, motor, and speech abilities, stomachaches, sleep disorders, and diarrhea (McCue 25).
Effects on Psychology
It is rather easy to note the physical consequences of domestic violence on children. However, it is equally difficult to fully understand their injured souls and minds. No existing instrument has the capability of measuring their suffering and the subsequent psychological damage caused by their childhood memories and experiences. Seeing their mothers beaten up by the fathers or partners on a regular basis is an unforgettable memory that inflicts great wounds on the immature minds. The cruelty and brutality that harms their mothers physically greatly affects their psychosomatic development. Demonstration of wickedness, name calling, and threatening specifically molest a child emotionally and psychologically. Therefore, it becomes excessively difficult for children to cope up with such behaviors. When they do not find a way to share their experiences with a kind soul, they naturally become isolated ultimately making themselves psychologically-ill. For a lot of children, overcoming physical wounds is easy and forgettable. However, the psychological wellbeing of a child is permanently scarred when he/she experiences continuous emotional abuse. To see their mothers degraded, humiliated, and embarrassed by their fathers becomes a life-long reminiscence ultimately blemishing their emotions forever.
Children of abuse have consistent feelings of vulnerability and isolation. They have attention starvation and yearn for their parents to approve and acknowledge them. Their mothers remain absent as they struggle to survive. Fathers, on the other hand, are always busy in controlling and dominating the family members. Therefore, the absence of fathers as providers of care and affection is out of the question. Consequently, the emotional, physical, and psychological abandonment deprives them of love and affection they deserve.
Unfortunately, it is a bitter truth that domestic violence is a gigantic nuisance that has affected the worldwide societies. In fact, this phenomenon has surpassed social classes, economic standing, and territorial boundaries. One can find an abuser in a poor family as well as within an affluent domestic setting. It is seriously hurtful to imagine what happens behind closed doors. Despite the fact that it is a domestic matter that occurs between two persons, usually spouse; this issue has affected the whole society in a completely negative way. Children subjected to domestic violence are the most prominent victims in such situation. The above discussion makes it crystal clear that the effects of domestic violence are not reversible. It is not easy for a child to forget and remain indifferent to what he/she has witnessed during his childhood years. Therefore, it is the responsibility of every individual to keep his/her eyes and ears open in order to notice any unwarranted abuse towards any child, woman or man.
In short, children are the most vulnerable creatures who can be profoundly impacted by the environment they are exposed to. Thus, “there needs to be a nation-wide, long-term, adequately resourced public education campaign aimed at both adults and children which addresses domestic violence and other forms of violence against women and children” (McGee 227). Even though domestic violence cannot be suppressed at all levels, it needs to be made sure that the victims are identified and given appropriate physical, emotional, and psychological treatment so that they may grow as groomed and fruitful citizens of society. Children must be given practical advice through mass media, social media, and print media about their rights as well as preventative measures against domestic violence.
Behind Closed Doors: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children. Rep. Watersmead, Littlehampton, West Sussex: The Body Shop International Plc, 2006. Print.
Finley, Laura L. Encyclopedia of Domestic Violence and Abuse. Vol. 2. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2013. Print.
Flowers, R. B. Domestic Crimes, Family Violence and Child Abuse: A Study of Contemporary American Society. North Carolina: McFarland &, 2000. Print.
Hester, Marianne. Making an Impact: Children and Domestic Violence: A Reader. London: Jessica Kingsley, 2007. Print.
McGee, Caroline. Childhood Experiences of Domestic Violence. London: Jessica Kingsley, 2000. Print.