mercoledì 17 giugno 2009

Domestic violence

Definitions of Domestic Violence and Exposure
Jouriles, McDonald, Norwood, and Ezell
(2001) suggest that a number of issues affect how
we define exposure to adult domestic violence. First,
the types of domestic violence to which children are
exposed may be defined narrowly as only physically
violent incidents or more broadly as including
additional forms of abuse such as verbal and emotional.
Second, even within the narrower band of
physical violence, there is controversy about
whether we should define adult domestic violence as
only severe acts of violence such as beatings, a
broader group of behaviors such as slaps and
shoves and psychological maltreatment, or a pattern
of physically abusive acts (see Osthoff, 2002).
Finally, despite documented differences in the nature
of male-to-female and female-to-male domestic
violence, should one and not the other be included in
a definition when considering children’s exposure to
such events? Settling on the definition of domestic violence
does not settle still other definitional questions that
arise. For example, how is exposure itself defined?
Is it only direct visual observation of the incident?
Should our definitions also include hearing the
incident, experiencing the events prior to and after
the event or other aspects of exposure? Throughout this paper
the phrase “exposure to adult domestic violence” will be
used to describe the
multiple experiences of children living in homes
where an adult is using physically violent behavior in
a pattern of coercion against an intimate partner.
Domestic violence may be committed by same-sex
partners as well as by women against men. However,
the available research on child exposure almost
exclusively focuses on homes where a man is
committing domestic violence against an adult
woman, who is most often the child’s mother. Thus,
unless otherwise identified, the studies reviewed here
focus on heterosexual relationships in which the male
is the perpetrator of violence.
The Impact of Exposure on Children
Carlson (2000) has conservatively estimated
that from 10% to 20% of American children are
exposed to adult domestic violence every year. Her
estimate is based on a review of surveys of adults
recalling their exposures as children and of teens
reporting current exposures. Whatever the true
number of exposed children, it is likely to be in the
many millions each year. National surveys in this
country and others also indicate that it is highly likely
that the severity, frequency, and chronicity of violence
each child experiences vary greatly.
Recent meta-analyses -- statistical analyses that
synthesize and average effects across studies -- have
shown that children exposed to domestic violence
exhibit significantly more problems than children not
so exposed (Kitzmann, Gaylord, Holt & Kenny,
2003; Wolfe, Crooks, Lee, McIntyre-Smith &
Jaffe, 2003). We have the most information on
behavioral and emotional functioning of children
exposed to domestic violence. Generally, studies
using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL;
Achenbach & Edelbrock, 1983) and similar measures
have found children exposed to domestic
violence, when compared to non-exposed children,
exhibit more aggressive and antisocial (often called
“externalized” behaviors) as well as fearful and
inhibited behaviors (“internalized” behaviors), show
lower social competence and have poorer academic
performance. Kitzmann et al. (2003) also found that
exposed children scored similarly on emotional
health measures to children who were physically
abused or who were both physically abused and
exposed to adult domestic violence.
Another all too likely effect is a child’s own
increased use of violence. Social learning theory
would suggest that children who are exposed to
violence may also learn to use it. Several researchers
have examined this link between exposure to
violence and subsequent use of violence. For
example, Singer et al. (1998) studied 2,245 children
and teenagers and found that recent exposure to
violence in the home was significantly associated
with a child’s violent behavior in the community.
Jaffe, Wilson, and Wolfe (1986) have also suggested
that children’s exposure to adult domestic violence
may generate attitudes justifying their own use of
violence. Spaccarelli, Coatsworth, and Bowden’s
(1995) findings support this association by showing
that adolescent boys incarcerated for violent crimes
who had been exposed to family violence believed
more than others that “acting aggressively enhances
one’s reputation or self-image” (p. 173). Believing
that aggression would enhance one’s self-image
significantly predicted violent offending.
A few studies have examined longer-term
problems reported retrospectively by adults or
indicated in archival records. For example, Silvern et
al.’s (1995) study of 550 undergraduate students
found that exposure to domestic violence as a child
was associated with adult reports of depression,
trauma-related symptoms, and low self-esteem
among women and trauma-related symptoms alone
among men. They found that after accounting for the
effects of being abused as a child, adult reports of
their childhood exposure to domestic violence still
accounted for a significant degree of their problems
as adults. Exposure to domestic violence also
appeared to be independent of the impacts of
parental alcohol abuse and divorce. In the same
vein, Henning et al. (1996) found that 123 adult
women who had been exposed to domestic violence
as a children showed greater distress and lower
social adjustment when compared to 494 nonexposed
adult women. These findings remained
even after accounting for the effects of witnessing
parental verbal conflict, being abused as a child, and
varying degrees of parental caring.
(Tratto da: Emerging Responses to Children Exposed to Domestic Violence, Jeffrey L. Edleson, In consultation with Barbara A. Nissley, VAWnet Applied Research Forum)

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