VIOLENCE Archives - Childhood Trauma Recovery

Category Archives: Violence

Childhood Trauma Increases Risk Of Being Both Victim And Perpetrator Of Crime And Violence

Research shows that the more ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES an individual suffered in their early life, the greater their risk of becoming the victim of crime and / or the perpetrator of crime in early life.

ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES, as defined by the well known Adverse Childhood Experiences Study are listed below :

physical abuse

– emotional abuse

– sexual abuse

witnessing the mother being abused by the father

loss / abandonment / rejection by a parent (including due to separation and divorce)

– living with a parent suffering from a pathological addiction

– living with a clinically depressed mother

– living with a mother who suffers from another significant mental illness


The more of the above adverse childhood experiences a person has suffered, the higher their ACE Score. For example, a person who had suffered one of the above adverse childhood experiences would have an ACE score of 1, whereas an individual who had experienced four of them would have an ACE score of 4.


Some main examples of the research linking crime / violence to childhood trauma include the following :

  • ACE scores of 4 or over increase the risk of being the perpetrator of violence, the victim of violence and of being put in jail by 500 per cent, compared to an individual with an ACE score of zero. (Bellis et al.)
  • Females with ACE scores of 5 or more are 14% more likely to suffer domestic violence and 30% more likely to suffer sexual assault, compared to females with an ACE score of zero. (Whitfield et al.)
  • Ex-offenders with an ACE score of 5 or above are 11 times more likely to re-offend during their first year of probation and 15 times more likely to re-offend during their second year of probation, compared to individuals with an ACE score of zero (Anda, 2011).
  • Children involved in the juvenile justice system have, on average, approximately, an ACE score triple that of children who are not involved in the system (Baglivio et al.).
  • As a child’s ACE score increases, the risk of him perpetrating violence increases from between 35% and 144% (Duke et al.).

For more connected to this topic, you may wish to read my previously published articles :

Childhood Trauma Leading To Addiction And Crime

So-Called Psychopathic Traits In Adolescents Often Symptoms Of Intense Emotional Distress

Anti-Social Personality Disorder : A Psychodynamic Explanation.Anti-Social Personality Disorder : A Psychodynamic Explanation.

eBook :

Above eBook now available for instant download from Amazon. Click here for further information.

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

Physical Abuse

physical abuss

Physical abuse of children can be defined as an action which physically hurts or injures them. Usually, this is not a one-off incident, but is a pattern of behaviour towards the child from the parent/s or someone else who is supposed to be caring for him/her. Very frequently, too, the child who is physically abused will also be emotionally abused.

It is estimated that approximately 1 in 6 reports of child abuse involve physical abuse. However, as has been pointed out in other articles on this site, child abuse is notoriously under-reported (not least due to the perpetrators’ desire to cover it up) so it is very likely that it is far more prevalent than suggested by official statistics.


As well as the physical harm done to the child, s/he will inevitably suffer associated adverse psychological consequences. These can include :

anxiety and fear


– traumatic stress

– a tendency to become aggressive

– difficulties with interpersonal relationships

– fear and distrust of those in authority

low self-esteem

– self-blame

– a sense of shame (due to the fact it is common for the child to erroneously believe s/he deserved the harsh treatment)

– it is also thought that the trauma of being physically abused, over time, can negatively impinge upon the development of the brain


It is common, too, for the child who has suffered physical abuse to frequently ‘act out’ his/her feelings. Essentially, this involves ‘problem’ behaviours, such as going into rages, as an expression (usually unconsciously) of his/her inner emotional turmoil and distress. ‘Acting out’ takes place because the child does not have the verbal skills or understanding to effectively verbally express his/her deepest feelings and inner pain.

Sometimes, however, in stark contrast to this, the child, in response to the physical abuse, will become emotionally ‘numb’, apathetic and resigned; s/he may become emotionally ‘flat’ and stop expressing his/her feelings.


The more unpredictable the physical abuse is (it is especially likely to be unpredictable if the parent/’carer’ is unstable) the deeper will be the sense of fear the child finds him/herself having to live with.


If the child is often threatened with physical abuse (ie it is always ‘just’ a threat, and never actually materializes), the effects can be just as serious. Indeed, the psychologists Knutson et al., (2005) found that living with such threats often led to depression, anxiety and aggression in the child.


A research study carried out by Silverman et al., found that 80% of young people who had experienced significant physical abuse in childhood, had at least one psychiatric disorder by the age of 21 years. These included :

– depression

– anxiety

suicidal behaviours

– eating disorders

substance misuse

On top of the above, those who have suffered physical abuse as children are much more likely to commit crime in later life. They are also more likely to become violent themselves, having learned, as children, that violence was an ‘acceptable’ form of expression and control.


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

Infanticide And Mental Illness


What Is Infanticide?

At the severest end of the spectrum of childhood maltreatment lies the extremely rare and tragic act of infanticide which is defined as the killing of the child in his or her first year of life. The main focus of this article will be to examine parental infanticide (i.e. cases in which the infant is killed by a parent) together with how mental illness is frequently associated with this deeply disturbing phenomenon.

How Common Is Infanticide?

Infanticide is extremely rare. In the U.S., it is estimated that approximately 350 to 700 acts of infanticide are committed each year which is the equivalent of between about one and two cases per day on average.

Five Categories Of Perpetrators Of Infanticide :

According to the researchers Meyer and Oberman, there exist five main categories of women who commit infanticide (the sample they used for their study was made up of females from the U.S.). These five categories are as follows :
1) Those who kill their baby during the twenty-four hours immediately following birth (this is technically known as neonaticide). The researchers also suggested that the females in this category can be further divided into two, more specific, sub-categories :
  • those who have kept their pregnancy a secret and do not want it discovered that they had ever had a baby.
  • those who are severely afflicted by the psychological states of denial, dissociation and depersonalization

2) Women who kill their infant, aided and abetted by a physically abusive partner.

3) Women who kill their infant indirectly through gross neglect.

4) Women who have lost control of ‘disciplining’ their infant to such an extreme degree that this has actually resulted in his/her death (e.g. angry and violent shaking of the infant in a fit of frustration and rage).

5) Deliberate infanticide which may be linked to severe mental illness in the mother such as :

  • postpartum depression
  • postpartum psychosis
  • schizophrenia (especially in cases in which the individual has discontinued their medication against medical advise).

N.B. However, it is worth reiterating the fact infanticide is an extremely rare crime and that in the vast majority of cases those suffering from mental illness pose no danger to others.

Infanticide, Mental Illness And Legal Implications :

Spinelli (2004) points out that in the UK the Infanticide Law provides probation and makes psychiatric treatment mandatory in the case of mentally ill mothers who commit infanticide, whilst, in the United States, similar individuals may face the ultimate punishment – the death penalty.
Furthermore, Spinelli informs us, recent neuroscientific research demonstrates that women afflicted by postpartum psychosis and who commit infanticide require treatment rather than punishment and that such treatment is effective in reducing the probability that the individual will repeat her crime in the future.

Conclusion :

Finally, Spinelli concludes that, in light of the above, psychiatrists play a crucial role in diagnosing postpartum psychosis (and similar psychiatric conditions) and then providing appropriate treatment. Additionally, she suggests that there should be greater sharing of knowledge between the psychiatric community and the legal community about the effects of mental illness on behavior so that, where appropriate, punishment of individuals is replaced by effective treatment.


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

When Parents Threaten Their Child With Violence

I have written elsewhere about how my mother was prone to unpredictable, unprovoked outbursts of extreme hostility when I was very young but it is only now I feel I want to be a little more specific – something has prevented me from going into detail up until now, although that ‘something’ is very hard to define, despite the fact I have (I hope!) gained a fair amount of insight into my past and its effects upon me.

When she was angry my mother’s verbal rage knew no limits ; her frequently repeated threats or hurtful statements included :

  • ‘I feel evil towards you! Evil!’ (The second ‘evil’ delivered in a particularly melodramatic, emphatic and malevolent tone)
  • ‘I feel I could knife you!’
  • ‘I feel murderous towards you!’  (or, if I was ‘lucky’, she’d be slightly more restrained and scream at me the rather more banal phrase, ‘I wish to Christ I’d never bloody had you!’ (though delivered in a tone of devastating conviction and palpable authenticity; one could almost feel the hot waves of hatred emanating from her).

(There may well be still worse examples which I have either repressed or which occurred when I was too young for them to form long-term memories – I simply can’t know; but this, of course, is true of everyone).

At the time, being on the receiving end of these, how shall I put it, rather less than maternally loving statements, I think I felt very little; just numb, in fact, as if everything had gone hazy and foggy. It seems I must have mentally shut down as a form of self-preservation; this is a psychological defense mechanism I now know to be called ‘dissociation‘).

For years, even decades, I kept these memories at the very back of my mind, so to speak, but, of course, that will have only worsened their psychological effect.

It is only now, decades later (I was about twelve-years-old when my mother’s verbal aggression was at its most vehement, just as I was entering puberty) that I feel ready to attempt to mentally process such experiences. However, painful this may be, avoiding doing so is likely to be even more so.

Very few of the articles I publish on this site are so personal and I apologize for, once again, indulging myself. However, my next post will be more objective and its topic directly related this one : ‘The Effects Of Parental Threats Of Violence Upon The Child.’


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

Characteristics Of Perpetrators Of Domestic Violence.

domestic violence perpetrators


Domestic Violence And Children :

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 (e.g. growing up in a household in which the father regularly beats the mother) are put at high risk of developing significant emotional and behavioral 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).


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 behavior

– 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.


HopeLine – support for those experiencing domestic violence.

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



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


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 hypervigilance and extreme wariness/distrust of others.


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 and 2) The amygdala, when compared to the children shown exactly the same pictures but whom had had a stable, loving and protected childhood.


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.


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.

child_trauma_and_NEUROPLASTICITY, functional_and_structural_ neuroplasticity

Above eBook, How Childhood Trauma Can Physically Damage The Developing Brain, now available on Amazon for immediate download. Click here.

(Other titles available).

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


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.


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:



EBook (other titles available).


Above eBook now available on Amazon for immediate download. Click here.


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

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