Children Exposed to Domestic Violence
The Role of Impact, Assessment, and Treatment
The purpose of this chapter is to provide social workers with a broad, practice-based overview of the literature documenting children exposed to domestic violence. Exposure can occur in many different ways (Edleson, 1999); however, in this chapter, exposure is generally defined as seeing and/or hearing and/or intervening in an attempt to stop the violence. Although children exposed to the repeated physical, sexual, and psychological assaults of their mothers by male caretakers or father figures have been considered forgotten (Elbow, 1982) and invisible (Fantuzzo, Boruch, Beriama, Atkins, & Marcus, 1997), within the last 15 years the mental health field has made many contributions toward understanding the short- and long-term impact on its youngest survivors. For example, a large body of books and edited volumes have detailed the negative impact on children exposed to domestic violence (e.g., Barnett, Miller-Perrin, & Perrin, 1997; Edleson & Eisikovits, 1996; Geffner, Jaffe, & Sudermann, 2000; Holden, Geffner, & Jouriles, 1998; Jaffe, Wolfe, & Wilson, 1990; David and Lucile Packard Foundation, 1999; Peled, 1997; Roberts, 1998). Additionally, at least 100 empirical and clinical descriptive papers have been published that document the experiences of children.
The profession of social work has a significant role to play in understanding how to best assess and intervene with exposed children. In the course of a professional day, it is likely that direct practice social workers will observe the immediate and long-term indicators of violence on children and families.