Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Children's Exposure to Domestic Violence: Information for Educators

Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Children's Exposure to Domestic Violence: Information for Educators

Article excerpt

Editor's Note: Many handouts are fully formatted for distribution and available for downloading on the NASP website (http://www.nasponline.org).

Domestic violence can occur in any family regardless of race, culture, level of education, or socioeconomic status. Exposure to domestic violence can have significant short- and long-term effects on children, including a negative impact on social-emotional wellbeing, physical health, and school functioning. As a result, it is important for educators to not only understand how exposure to domestic violence can affect students, but also to employ resources to best meet these students' needs.

QUICK FACTS

* Almost 1 in 4 children may witness domestic violence.

* Fourteen percent of children are often present in the home when domestic violence occurs, but do not directly witness the domestic violence.

* Co-occurring abuse:

* Sixty-five percent of men who battered their wives had also threatened their children.

* Children who attempt to help their mother or other caregiver place themselves at an increased risk for abuse.

* The more severely the mother is abused, the more frequently the child tries to help; consequently, the child is at a higher risk for being injured or abused.

PROBLEMS ARISING FROM EXPOSURE TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Exposure to domestic violence increases a student's risk for academic and adjustment difficulties including the following:

* School-age children:

* Externalizing behaviors (conduct problems, aggression)

* Internalizing problems (phobias, fears, somatic complaints, depression)

* Reduced self-worth

* Social and emotional adjustment difficulties

* Maintaining positive relations with peers and adults

* Decreased social competence

* Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

* Adolescents:

* PTSD

* Anxiety

* Depression

* Anger

* Delinquency

* Status offenses

* Perpetration of violence

* Future involvement in abusive relationships

HOW EDUCATORS CAN HELP

Understand the impact of exposure to domestic violence. Exposure to domestic violence can manifest differently in children depending on their age group. It is important to note that while exposure to domestic violence may lead to children displaying the behaviors listed above, if a child or adolescent exhibits these behaviors, it does not automatically indicate that a child has been, or is currently exposed to domestic violence. However, if a teacher has knowledge of a student's exposure to domestic violence, school staff such as a school psychologist or counselor should be notified Immediately.

Ensure children's safety. Protecting children and facilitating their healthy development is a family's most basic function. When a parent realizes that he or she may not be able to protect a child from exposure to domestic violence, he or she Is likely to have difficulty not only providing protection, but also being emotionally available and responsive to the child. In these cases, it Is important for traditional societal protectors of children to help ensure safe environments for these children. Schools, community agencies, extended family, churches, and other resources can be called upon to provide additional support. While making a referral to child protective services should be the first consideration when learning that a child is exposed to domestic violence, first responders (e.g., teachers, school psychologists, police officers, child welfare advocates) can play an important role in offering early protection and support for violence-exposed children. …

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