Category Archives: Domestic Violence

Characteristics Of Perpetrators Of Domestic Violence.

 

We have seen in other articles that I have published on this site that children who grow up in households in which domestic violence is prevalent (eg. growing up in a household in which the father regularly beats the mother) are put at high risk of developing significant emotional and behavioural difficulties.

Indeed, without therapy, it is possible for the adverse effects on the child of having witnessed domestic violence to last well into adulthood and to significantly diminish his/her quality of life (click here to read one of my articles about the effects of domestic violence on children).

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According to the Minnonite Domestic Violence Task Force (Lehman,1996), perpetrators of domestic violence frequently exhibit the following characteristics:

Characteristics Of Perpetrators Of Domestic Violence:

– the man has a very possessive attitude towards the woman, as if he ‘owns’ her and she is his ‘property’; also, he is prone to exhibit extreme jealousy

– he blames others for his faults, deflecting blame from himself

– he attributes his problems to his circumstances (as above, this strategy serves to deflect blame from himself)

– he is very prone to unpredictable behaviour

– he verbally derides and belittles his partner; he is also prone to telling her she’s ‘crazy’ in order to discredit her and to undermine her confidence in the truth of her a own views (this is sometimes referred to as ‘gaslighting’ which you can read about in one of my articles by clicking here)

– perpetually pleads for ‘another/final chance’

– perpetually promises ‘to change’

– may have been abused as a child or witnessed domestic abuse in his own childhood home (eg. his mother being beaten by his father)

– plays on his partner’s guilt (eg. by blaming his behaviour on her/ claiming provocation)

– liable to abusing alcohol and drugs that cause his behaviour to become worse still

– can only see things from his own perspective / closed minded

– may appear charming and gentle to outsiders

– misogynistic

– he may abuse his own children

– refuses treatment, or, if he agrees to it, may ‘play games’ with the therapist.

Resource:

HopeLine – support for those experiencing domestic violence.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

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Brains Of Children Exposed To Domestic Violence Affected In Similar Way To Exposure To Combat

effects_of_domestic_violence_on_children's_brains

A study carried out at University College London (UCL) has found that when a child is continually exposed to domestic violence, such as the father regularly beating the mother, their brains are negatively affected in a similar way to how the brains of soldiers are affected by exposure to combat in war.

As a result, the children’s brains may become HYPERSENSITIVE TO PERCEIVED THREAT, or, to put it informally, ‘stuck on red alert.’  This, in turn, may lead to the child becoming trapped in a distressing state of hyper-vigilance and extreme wariness/distrust of others.

eff ct_of_domestic_violence_on_kids

The research study which discovered this entailed children being shown pictures of angry/threatening faces whilst undergoing a brain scan and from this it was found that their emotional response to these faces was far more intense than was the emotional response of another group of children who were from stable backgrounds (known as the ‘control group’) who underwent the same procedure.

Specifically, the brain scans revealed that the children who had been exposed to domestic violence showed unusually high activity levels in two parts of the brain when shown the pictures of the angry/threatening faces, namely:

1) The anterior insula

2) The amygdala

compared to the children shown exactly the same pictures but whom had had a stable, loving and protected childhood.

amygdala

Similarity to effect of exposure to combat on the brain:

Such increased activity in these two brain regions has also been found to occur, from previous research, in the brains of soldiers who have experienced protracted exposure to armed conflict.

Short-term benefits but long-term losses:

One of the psychological researchers involved in the UCL study pointed out that this changed brain activity may be helpful to children who live in homes where there is domestic violence in the short-term by helping them to avoid danger.

However, in the long-term, the changes may cause the individual severe problems – for example, as an adult the individual may constantly overestimate the degree of danger that other people present to him/ her. In turn, this may lead that same individual to be prone to becoming disproportionately aggressive towards those s/he perceives to be a threat to him/her.

The individual, too, may perceive threats where they, in reality, do not exist due to his/ her constant wariness of others together with a pervasive sense of paranoia.

Resilience:

The researchers involved in this study also drew our attention to the fact that not all children who are exposed to domestic violence develop the kind of mental disturbance described above and that more research needs to be conducted in order to ascertain which factors contribute to this resilience.

Anxiety and depression:

Research also shows that children exposed to domestic violence are at significantly increased risk of developing anxiety and depression (click here to read my article on this); indeed, both the anterior insula and the amygdala play a prominent role in the generation of anxiety disorders.

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

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Indirect Abuse: Effects On Children Of Witnessing Domestic Violence.

 

effect of domestic violence on children

Domestic violence often involves a man physically abusing a woman on repeated occasions (although it can, of course, involve a woman assaulting a man or a partner assaulting a same-sex partner in the case of gay relationships). In this article, however, to save complications, I’ll use the conventional example of a man who attacks a woman.

If the man and the woman are parents/step – parents to children who live in the same house, the psychological harm done to these children can be very severe.

Indeed, although the children may themselves not be physically abused, the fact that they witness the abuse (a study by Hughes (1992) showed that in 90% of cases the child is in the same room, or next room to the room, in which the violence is taking place, meaning, of course, they see and/or hear it happening) the experience can have an equally damaging mental effect on them as would occur were they to suffer direct abuse.

effects_of_domestic_violence_on_children

In fact, experts now regard children forced to witness direct violence between parents as having emotional abuse inflicted upon them.

Because, however, research into the effects on children of witnessing domestic violence is relatively recent, the damage being done to young people in this manner has gone largely undetected in the past, leading some researchers to refer to these children as ‘hidden’ or ‘unacknowledged’ victims of abuse.

Specific psychological effects upon the child of witnessing domestic abuse:

Children who regularly witness this kind of domestic violence in the home are made to feel powerless, afraid and, often, terrified. They are forced into the alarming realisation that:

a) those who are supposed to be strong and protect them are highly vulnerable and unable to protect themselves (implying they may not be able to protect their children either).

b) those who are supposed to protect them are capable of violently turning against those that they are supposed to care for and love.

Both of the above combine to make the child feel highly unsafe, vulnerable and insecure.

When indirect abuse turns into direct abuse:

Worse still, when domestic violence occurs in the house, it is possible for children to become directly involved in it.

For instance, their pity for their mother may compel them to intervene in order to try to protect her from the father.

Alternatively, a parent may encourage an impressionable and frightened child to join in the violence against the victim.

Furthermore, studies have revealed that approximately 70% of children who live in households in which the father physically abuses the mother are themselves physically abused by him – thus making this large group of children both indirect and direct victims of abuse.

The infographic below shows other possible effects of domestic violence on children:

effects_of_domestic_violence_on_children

 

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Childhood Trauma – The Cycle of Domestic Violence

childhood_trauma_questionnaire

I have already written an introductory article on the subject of how domestic violence may affect children (CLICK HERE) and, in this article, I want to look at the cycle that often underlies domestic violence, leading to the violence being repeated again and again in the affected household (domestic violence is most often repetitive, although it can, of course, also occur as a one off event).

THE CYCLE OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE :

The cycle of domestic violence can be represented as being made up of three main elements; these are :

1) The Pre-Existing Conditions Within The Family

2) The Trigger Incident

3) The Violent Incident Itself

Let’s look at each of these in turn :

1) The Pre-Existing Conditions Within The Family I have said before that any type of family can be affected by domestic violence; however, families with the following types of characteristics may be particularly at risk :

– excessive use of alcohol

– use of narcotics

– very limited understanding by the parent/s of normal childhood emotional/psychological development (eg that rebelliousness during adolescence is normal)

– the parent/s have used violence against those outside of the family

– a strong emotional bond has failed to form between the child and parent

– financial anxieties

– a poor and stressful relationship between the parents

– poor communication between trhe parents

– poor social support/social isolation

– parent/s has/have low stress tolerance

– unemployment

– low self-esteem of parent/s

– parent/s have emotional problems/problems with impulse control

Of course, some families may have several of the above characteristics and different families will experience different levels of severity of the characteristics.

All else being equal, the more of the characteristics the family has, and the more severe these problems are, the greater the risk of domestic violence within the family (not least because many of the problems often compound one another).

2) The Trigger Incident : The incident that immediately precipitates the violence may be very trivial or more serious. The reason a trivial incident can trigger violence is often because the perpetrator of the violence already feels under stress (due to problems such as those referred to above) and is very close to his/her tipping point anyway (ie. the point at which s/he will become violent).

Because of this, s/he takes out his/her stress, anger and frustration (the psychological term for this is DISPLACEMENT) on the family member even though the family member and the trivial initiating incident are not be the main cause of the violence.

3) The Violent Incident Itself : The type of violent incident is also part of the cycle as the perpetrator of the violence will tend to repeat the particular type of violence s/he deploys against the victim/s.

For example, a perpetrator who uses physical violence will tend to stick to this, while a perpetrator who uses psychological/emotional abuse (CLICK HERE to read my article on emtional abuse) will tend to stick to that. Often, of course, a perpetrator may use both forms of abuse simultaneously.

 

RESOURCES:

 

DOMESTICVIOLENCE.ORG

 

EBOOKS :

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Copyright 2014 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Childhood Trauma : Domestic Violence

childhood_trauma_questionnaire

Domestic violence can affect children in two ways : DIRECTLY and INDIRECTLY. Let’s look at each of these two categories:

DIRECTLY :

–  the violence is DELIBERATELY aimed at the child with the INTENTION of causing him/her harm

INDIRECTLY :

– the child witnesses the violence is the household (eg sees the father beat up the mother). Whilst the violence is not perpetrated directly against the child, the child is caused psychological damage as a result of the experience

STATISTICS RELATING TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE :

In the USA, approximately 1.5 million children per year are affected by domestic violence (although this is thought to be a substantial underestimate due to all the cases of domestic violence which go unreported/undetected). Shockingly, about 2000 – 5000 children will actually die as a result of the violence (figures come from The National Crime Survey).

Worse still, these are just the figures that relate to direct violence; millions more children are harmed indirectly. The proportions, then, are truly epidemic.

WHAT TYPE OF FAMILIES DOES DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OCCUR IN?

All types of families are affected by domestic violence – no religious sector, ethnic group or socio-economic class are immune. However, it needs to be noted that children are more likely to be affected by domestic violence in families affected by :

– poverty

– unemployment

– being a single-parent family

WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?

The most common types are as follows:

– beating

– biting

– burning

– immersion in scalding water

– shaking

WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ON THE CHILD?:

The effects upon the child are wide-ranging and may include:

– nightmares

– bedwetting

– depression

– low self-esteem

– introversion/introspection/withdrawal

– non-communicativeness/refuge in silence

– feelings of hopelessness

– feelings of being trapped

– academic/social problems at school, including failure to make friends

– feeling unloved/unloveable

– anxiety/exaggerated startle response/nervous behaviours

– aggression/fighting/hostility/destructiveness/abuse of pets/abuse of siblings

– avoidance of discussing anything about family with peers

– feelings of self-hatred (CLICK HERE TO READ MY ARTICLE ON THIS).

– irrational feelings of guilt/shame together with irrational feelings of being ‘bad’ and ‘to blame’ (CLICK HERE TO READ MY ARTICLE ON THIS)

DO CHILDREN WHO SUFFER DOMESTIC VIOLENCE GO ON TO PERPETRATE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE THEMSELVES IN ADULTHOOD?

Research suggests that about 30% of those who suffer the effects of domestic violence in childhood go on to perpetrate domestic violence themselves as adults.

The chances of this occurring are reduced considerably if the person gains insight into the effects of his/her childhood experiences had upon him/her through appropriate therapy.

WHEN IS PROFESSIONAL INTERVENTION APPROPRIATE?

It goes without saying that professional intervention is necessary if significant physical harm is occurring. Other indicators that professional intervention may be especially urgent include :

– the child’s physical/emotional/cognitive development is being adversely affected

– the child emotionally regresses (ie. starts behaving significantly younger due to emtional distress -eg. a fourteen -year -old who frequently has emotional tantrums more usually displayed in a four-year-old)

– significant, recurring, aggressive behaviour

– extreme social withdrawal

– the child is suffering from significant anxiety (eg has an exaggerated ‘startle respone’)

NB. The above list is in no way exhaustive; indeed, some children may be suffering a high level of internal emotional distress which s/he suppresses making it less easily detectable. It is, therefore, always best to err on the side of caution.

 

RESOURCES :

DOMESTICVIOLENCE.ORG

 

EBOOKS :

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Above ebooks now available for immediate download on Amazon. $4.99 each. CLICK HERE.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

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Copyright 2014 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery