In her article, DR. Victoria Thornton explores the emotional effects of domestic violence on children. She quotes the office for national statistics (2013) which puts the prevalence of domestic violence at 12%. Since 73% of children in these homes have witnessed the violence and 52% have seen the injuries that result from it, there is bound to an emotional impact on these children.
She explores previous studies such as those carried out by Kitzmann et al in 2003 which found that these children have an increased chance of getting psychopathology as compared to children from non-violent homes. They have external symptoms such as being very aggressive while others are hyper active. These children also suffer from psychological stress in the form of anxiety and depression which are manifested in the form of bedwetting, disturbed sleep and social awkwardness. These kids do not mature normally and also do not perform well in school. Previous research has found that these symptoms are more severe in children that have been exposed to domestic violence for a long time.
In her own research which she carried out on 8 children aged between 5 and 9, Dr. Thornton used storytelling, Human Family Drawing and Kinetic Family Drawing to collect her data. She found that the children had difficulty choosing sides between their parents. The children were also lonely and isolated as one child drew a young girl crying alone without her parents noticing, Dr. Thornton attributes this to parents paying more attention to their partners more than to the children. The children also felt responsible for the violence, they accepted it and others felt like they needed to protect their mothers as they faked illnesses and missed school so as to stay with them.
Overall, she found that domestic violence has far reaching negative effects on the emotions of the children as they do not have coping mechanisms. These children therefore need help and counseling.
Thornton, Victoria. “Understanding the emotional impact of domestic violence on young children.” Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 31 No. 1 97. Print