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Promoting resiliency in children exposed to domestic violence Jan Russell Copyright: 2008 Jan Russell.

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Presentation on theme: "Promoting resiliency in children exposed to domestic violence Jan Russell Copyright: 2008 Jan Russell."— Presentation transcript:

1 Promoting resiliency in children exposed to domestic violence Jan Russell Copyright: 2008 Jan Russell

2 Children and domestic violence 90% of children are aware of domestic violence in the home Children experience domestic violence in several ways: Witness actual violence Overhear violence See the aftermath of violence, including injuries and property damage

3 Effects of domestic violence on children Boys (mostly) more aggressive and antisocial (externalized behaviors) Girls (mostly) more withdrawn and depressed (internalized behaviors) College age women Less ability to understand how others feel and to empathize Lower social competency, poorer peer relationships

4 Effects of domestic violence on children Lower verbal and quantitative skills Attitudes justifying their own use of violence

5 Limitations to the research Most studies: do not distinguish between being abused and witnessing abuse failed to take into account level of violence in family exposure to violence within that family other stressors the child is exposed to

6 Limitations to the research Most research is done on children in shelter settings Is this population representative of battered women and their children as a whole? more severe violence less financial and other resources Catching children at the most stressful moment, may not reflect overall coping skills

7 Group trends v. individual responses Some research indicates that many children are surviving with few or no problems

8 Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Study Child is victim of Recurrent physical abuse Recurrent emotional abuse Sexual abuse Emotional or physical neglect One or no parents Mother is treated violently Household member is chronically depressed, mentally ill, institutionalized or suicidal Alcohol/drug abuser Incarcerated Extreme poverty

9 Health/behavioral consequences Alcoholism and drug abuse Smoking Depression Suicide attempts Multiple sexual partners Unintended pregnancies COPD Liver disease Sexually transmitted diseases Ischemic heart disease Fetal death


11 Protective Factors

12 Reoccurring themes Stress reduction Self-esteem Connections to family members, friends, community Empathy and ability to trust others Positive view of the world

13 Innate abilities and characteristics Higher v. lower intelligence Positive outlook Hope for the future

14 Development of interests and talents WOLAK & FINKELHOR 1998 Makes child feel special Acts as a distraction Creates safe “space” Finding Flow

15 Access to close relationships with trustworthy adults WOLAK & FINKELHOR 1998 The more people who support a child, the better off the child is Look for appropriate role models of all kinds and of both genders Boys who witness domestic violence appear to develop more strongly negative attitudes regarding women than do boys who are abused directly by their mothers (Liss & Stably 1993)

16 Access to close relationships with trustworthy adults Robert’s story Exposure to couples whose relationships demonstrate equality Abuser’s family? Stepmother?


18 Ability to escape self blame WOLAK & FINKELHOR 1998 Child’s need to protect mother – blame themselves when they can’t Child feel responsible for the abuse and everything that follows from it Poor parent/child boundaries Involving children in adult issues

19 Ability to talk about abuse with trustworthy adult(s) Betsy McAlister Groves Children need help understanding what is happening to them and their families In the absence of careful adult explanations, children create their own meanings for event Need to know abuse is not their fault Can mothers discuss abuse with children when they are involved in court proceedings?

20 Strength of peer relationships WOLAK & FINKELHOR 1998 DV = isolation and secrecy Children in domestic violence situations: spend less time with friends, worry more about safety of friends, are less likely to have a best friend, and have lower-quality relationships than do other children Graham-Bermann 1998

21 Strength of peer relationships Helps with trust issues Increases support Helps children feel that it is safe to have friends Ritualistic rule breaking

22 Physical and emotional safety BANCROFT & SILVERMAN Safety planning Permission to take certain actions Listening without judgment Unconditional love Separate behavior from child

23 Structure, limits and predictability BANCROFT & SILVERMAN Abuser’s efforts to undermine mother’s parenting can result in timid or indecisive parenting style Single best predictor of behavior problems in children exposed to domestic violence was the mother’s level of parenting stress, not her overall life stress (Holden, Ritchie 1991)

24 Strong bond to siblings BANCROFT & SILVERMAN The relationships betweens siblings exposed to domestic violence are marked by high levels of sibling rivalry and jealousy – with punishment, exploitation and scapegoating passed down the sibling hierarchy from eldest to youngest. Hurley and Jaffe 1990

25 Safe contact with battering parent BANCROFT & SILVERMAN Forfeiture theory What does contact with the abuser provide? Make transitions easier Okay to love abuser and to have fun with him Don’t grill child about what happened with abuser Avoid making the child choose between parents

26 Involvement with something bigger than themselves James Garbarino Spirituality Community Public Service Promotes connection Learn empathy and caring

27 Androgyny Emmy Werner Combining traditionally feminine and masculine traits

28 Model fun! Jan Russell

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