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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 127398 Find in a Library
Title: Child Witness of Family Violence (From Case Studies in Family Violence, P 231-253, 1991, Robert T. Ammerman and Michel Hersen, eds. -- See NCJ-127384)
Author(s): M S Rosenberg; R S Giberson
Date Published: 1991
Page Count: 23
Sponsoring Agency: Plenum Press
New York, NY 10013
Sale Source: Plenum Press
233 Spring Street
New York, NY 10013
United States of America
Type: Survey
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This case study illustrates that witnessing marital violence can be a profoundly disorganizing experience for children and can cause significant effects on their cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning.
Abstract: Child witnesses experience these effects directly by actually witnessing violence perpetrated against a loved one and indirectly where parent-child relationships become distorted and compromised as a result of marital violence. Consequently, it is important for therapists to maintain a systems framework during evaluation and treatment of child witnesses and their families. Child witnesses to marital violence live in a world of extremes and come to understand and respond to their environment in terms of dichotomies. Children may experience their parents as emotionally unavailable or overavailable, controlled or explosive, and ignoring or overreacting. Children may alternatively try to deny or ruminate on memories of violence, feel powerful or profoundly powerless, and minimize negative emotions or explode with anger and sadness. Child witnesses develop ways of coping that may be quite adaptive in the context of living in a violent family. However, over time, these coping strategies begin to interfere with the child's emotional health and become maladaptive in interactions outside the family. Therapy should not be limited to helping children confront and integrate their traumatic memories; it should also focus on children's distorted cognitions, emotional reactions, and behavioral responses. Therapists should not underestimate the deleterious effects of witnessing violence on children's psychological well-being and should guide children and their families toward healthier interpersonal relationships. 15 references
Main Term(s): Domestic assault; Juvenile witnesses
Index Term(s): Child abuse prevention; Child victims; Parent-Child Relations
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