“In situations of captivity the perpetrator becomes the most powerful person in the life of the victim, and the psychology of the victim is shaped by the actions and beliefs of the perpetrator.”
― Judith Lewis Herman
When it comes to domestic violence, the effects it can have on children can be particularly devastating. Abuse, in all of its forms, for all of its victims can have long-lasting repercussions and trauma. When it comes to children, however, abuse can affect their development, personality, and lifelong behavior.
There are many types of abusive behaviors parents can fall into. Some parents bully their children, and it is thought that people who were bullied as children grow to bully their own children. Parents might think that they’re disciplining their kids, giving them tough love, instilling the harsh realities of the real world, or just teaching their kids the same ways they were taught.
Although it isn’t seen as a big issue bullying can affect all points of development in a child. from birth to the age of five, children can experience developmental regression, between the ages of six to eleven, bullied children can experience trouble building relationships and aggressiveness, and from twelve to eighteen, adolescents are more likely to engage in reckless and dangerous behaviors like substance abuse or dating a violent partner. Parental bullying can lead children to believe that bullying is a normal part of parenting and home life, leading them to bully their own children later.
According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, children who experience trauma at a young age can have developmental issues, such as a smaller brain cortex. This can result in issues with their attention spans, memory, their capacity for language and thinking, their awareness of the world around them, their emotional regulation, and IQ. A child who experiences abuse or witnesses abuse at home can have their future, their potential, the capacity of their own brain functions, their personality, and their lives affected forever.
Children who live in homes with a parent that abuses their partner are at a higher risk to experience child abuse. If they don’t, they still end up being exposed to the abuse of one of their caretakers. This causes anxiety, fear, and long-term feelings of guilt. Children are more likely to develop major depression, anxiety disorder, or schizophrenia if they were abused at a developmental stage.
Children and teens who experience traumatic acts of violence are also at a high-risk factor to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.) Very young children will often remember the timeline of their trauma incorrectly in a phenomenon called ‘time skew.’ Very young children can also develop something called Omen Formation, where they believe they can notice signs that another trauma is imminent, and can take measures to avoid it happening.
A study from Drexel University that took case studies of around two hundred who were abused or neglected and retraced them forty years later as grown men found that neglected children and abused children often grew to be delinquent adults, and children who had been rejected by their parents were at a high-risk factor to grow to become criminals as adults. What this confirms, even further, is that even if children grow to leave an abusive home (many of the boys in the study died at a young age,) the scars of their time spent with parents who abused or neglected them followed them into adulthood.
According to the childhood domestic violence association, five million Children will witness violence at home every year. The numbers of adults in the US who grew up with violence in their homes is as high as forty million. Domestic violence can even change the DNA of a child and prematurely age them anywhere from seven to ten years. Kids who grow up in violent homes at a high risk of committing suicide or becoming addicted to alcohol and drugs and at a higher risk of committing violence themselves and eventually, continuing the cycle with their own children.
It is important that we continue, as a society, to educate parents, teachers, and children about what appropriate parenting looks like. It’s paramount that we continue to teach kids when to speak out for themselves and alert a teacher or trusted adult. It’s important to speak for children who can’t articulate for themselves their feelings of pain and fear. Abuse, whether it’s physical, emotional, bullying, neglecting, or sexual abuse can change the course of a child’s life forever. The job of adults is to intervene and protect them.
How to Stop Domestic Abuse, courtesy of CNAClassesFreeInfo.com
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