Domestic Violence: A Handbook for Health Professionals

By Lyn Shipway | Go to book overview
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Chapter 7

Domestic violence and children

There is evidence of co-occurrence of domestic violence and child abuse within the same family. Child abuse can be seen as an indicator of domestic violence in the family and vice versa.

(Walby and Myhill 2000:2)


Not surprisingly, there is an increasing acceptance that a compelling correlation between domestic violence and child abuse exists. Hague and Malos (1998:19) argue that living in a home where violence against a parent is the norm is in itself abusive to the child. Arguably, this strengthens the debate as to whether or not we should be moving away from the term 'violence' and towards that of 'abuse'; recognizing that physical, psychological, social, financial and emotional abuse are often collective elements of a violent and abusive relationship. Simply focusing on physical acts may result in countless individuals and families continuing to co-exist in homes where abuse, and thus fear, is the norm. This was highlighted by Humphreys (2000), who, in a retrospective analysis of families with a history of violence, discovered that social work intervention either avoided or minimized the issues of domestic violence, or they took a confrontational approach, which often led to removal of the children from the home.


The 1996 BCS statistics revealed that half of those women who experienced partner violence in the previous year were living with children under 16, and 29 per cent reported that the children had been aware of what was happening. Where women suffered recurring violence, at least 45 per cent reported that their children had been aware of the latest incident. In all probability children are affected by 'fear, distress, and disruption to their lives' resulting in significant, adverse, long-term effects depending upon 'their developmental stage, personality and individual circumstances'. Children persistently experience a variety of emotions including fear, powerlessness, and intimidation (Mullender 2000:1). However, Mullender argues persuasively that in viewing children as victims we may make the mistake of perceiving them to be passive bystanders, whilst many develop sophisticated coping strategies. In contrast, there are notable accounts of how children take on the role


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