Domestic violence

Research has been published showing that young children who witness domestic violence often show aggression later on.

In dealing with any decision arising from relationship breakdown, the Family Court always gives primary consideration to the welfare of any children involved.  The court is always concerned about protecting relevant children, of serious concern being the affect and impact of domestic violence on the children who may have experienced it or may be at risk of experiencing it.

The courts are always greatly concerned about specific reports which identify very real effects and behaviours on the part of children who have witnessed domestic violence, and which in turn extend the basis of the courts’ concern.

Recently reported research undertaken Dr Megan Holmes of the Mandel School of Applied Sciences has indicated that young children who witness acts of violence between their parents may be at greater risk of becoming aggressive when they are of school age.  The research finds that children’s behaviour in the classroom and playground may have its origins in their experiences of being 3 years old or younger.

In her study, Dr Holmes examined the long-term effects of intimate partner violence (IPV) on 107 children who were exposed to such violence between birth and age 3, and she compared the data with that spanning 5 years with 339 children of the same age who were not exposed, in order to identify any long-term effects of IPV upon children’s pro-social skills, including cooperation, responsibility, assertiveness and respect.  The research examined the long-term effects on aggressive behaviours, including yelling, shouting and hitting.  It showed that negative effects do not show up immediately, but rather that children gradually become more aggressive, especially between the ages of 5 and 6.

Dr Holmes considers that, when a child shows problematic behaviour, it is important to assess not only current exposure to IPV, but also previous exposure.  Also, when a child has been or may have been exposed to IPV, it is important for the professionals involved to assess the negative effects not only presently, but also in time, particularly as the child commences school.

If you have experienced domestic violence and have concerns for the wellbeing of any relevant children in these circumstances, and you would like further information and advice, please contact our Family and Divorce team at: