Children's Exposure to IPV and Other Family Violence
Exposure to any form of intimate partner violence or other family violence can have various detrimental effects to children and is associated with a host of mental health effects that include symptoms of postraumatic stress, depression, and anxiety (Kitzman 2003). In addition, various research has supported the notion that exposure to serious IPV as a child can lead to offending as an adult later in life. However, despite the well documented negative effects that exposure to IPV can have on children, surprisingly little information is available about how often such exposure occurs in households in the United States. It is because of this lack of information that researchers from the OJJDP decided to conduct the National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV). The NatSCEV is the most comprehensive nationwide survey of the incidence and prevalence of children's exposure to violence to date. The purpose of this research was to gain information that is important to determine the extent of the problem of exposure to IPV, assess if/what services are needed, and to establish a baseline for evaluating the progress of any future programs that become implemented.
The most important and general finding from the NatSCEV is that children in the United States are exposed to unacceptable rates of violence in their homes and by their families. Researchers discovered through the data that roughly 1 in every 9 children were exposed to some form of family violence in the past year alone. In addition, 1 out of 15 children were exposed to IPV that occurred between their two parents/caregivers which are supposed to be their “role models”. That comes out to an alarming approximately 8.2 million kids in the United States that were exposed to family violence in 2008. The data in the survey also found that 1 in every 4 children was exposed to at least form of family violence in their lifetimes. This figure is also very disturbing. Most of the youth exposed to family violence that participated in the survey, including 90% that claimed to have been exposed to IPV, said that they saw the violence as opposed to hearing it or encountering it through any other form of indirect exposure. This is an important statistic due to the fact the direct exposure is the worst kind and could possibly have a greater deter-mental effect than indirect exposure. Not surprisingly, males were more likely to perpetrate the incidents that were witness than females. Males were identified as perpetrators in 78% of all IPV incidents and the most severe violence had the highest percent of male perpetrators (88%). The NatSCEV results found that 68% of the youth that participated in the survey claimed to have only witnesses violence by the males in their households. In addition, father figures were the most common perpetrator of family violence and IPV. They accounted for somewhere between 61% and 71% of all incidents that involved males. However, the survey also shows that assaults by mothers or other family members was also present. Mothers accounted for roughly 10% of incidents and other females comprised about 24%. The information form the survey on children's reaction to violence by one parent to another indicates that large numbers were not simply passive observers. Almost 50% of the youth yelled at their parents during a violent episode in order to get them to stop and 25% called for help from a outside source at least one time during the incident. In addition, almost identical figures were found in incidents that involved parental assaults on a sibling and violence between other household teens and adults (Strauss 1992).
In conclusion, the data that was obtained through the research of the NatSCEV is of great importance due to the implications that it has for future policy makers and practitioners along with the fact that it should be able to open the eyes of United States families to just how prevalent children's exposure to violence in their households actually is.
- Kitzmann, K.M., Gaylord, N., Holt A., and Kenny , E. 2003. Child witnesses to domestic violence: A meta-analysis review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 71(2): 339-352
- Straus, M.A., and Gelles, R.J. 1990. Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers