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NCJ Number: 200476 Find in a Library
Title: Should Childhood Exposure to Adult Domestic Violence be Defined as Child Maltreatment Under the Law?
Journal: Juvenile and Family Justice Today  Volume:12  Issue:1  Dated:Spring 2003  Pages:12-14
Author(s): Jeffrey L. Edleson Ph.D.
Date Published: 2003
Page Count: 3
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article discusses the impact of childhood exposure to domestic violence and whether the law should include this as child maltreatment.
Abstract: Children exposed to adult domestic violence may experience negative developmental outcomes and may also be at risk for direct physical abuse. Some of the recent efforts to include this situation as child maltreatment under law have created unintended negative consequences for families and the systems serving them. States should not assume that childhood exposure to violence is automatically a form of child maltreatment. Studies have shown that groups of children exposed to adult domestic violence show evidence of other problems, but this may or may not indicate an individual child’s experience. Children exposed to adult domestic violence are sometimes at risk for developing behavioral, emotional, cognitive, and attitudinal problems that may persist into adulthood. It is hard to tell which children are safe and recover quickly once in a safe environment and which may develop short- or long-term problems. Responses to these studies have included passing new legislation in both criminal and civil law arenas, and expanding the definitions of child maltreatment to include children that have witnessed domestic violence. But child protection systems are given so few public resources that they will most often only respond to the cases of children at the greatest risk. This leaves most children, including those exposed to adult domestic violence and their families the subject of screening and investigation but without the provision of subsequent services. Childhood exposure to adult domestic violence should not automatically be defined as maltreatment under the law. Many children and their families should not be referred for forensic child protection investigations and interventions but should be offered voluntary, community-based assessments and services. Some children exposed to adult domestic violence are at great risk for harm and should be referred to the child protection system. Empirical and practice-based criteria are needed to decide whether or not a child is at a heightened risk of harm in this situation. 1 endnote, 18 references
Main Term(s): Child protection laws; Domestic assault
Index Term(s): Child protection services; Children at risk; Family offenses; Home environment; Interpersonal relations; Laws and Statutes
Note: This article is a chapter in Jaffe, P.G., Baker, L.L. & Cunningham, A. (In press)(eds.) "Ending Domestic Violence in the Lives of Children and Parents: Promising Practices for Safety, Healing, and Prevention," currently available online at
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