Unhappily, children in the United States are more likely to be exposed to violence and crime than are adults. A national study done by Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, 2009) found that more than 60% of the children surveyed were exposed to violence within the past year.
According to the study, “Children are exposed to violence every day in their homes, schools, and communities. They may be struck by a boyfriend, bullied by a classmate, or abused by an adult. They may witness an assault on a parent or a shooting on the street. Such exposure can cause significant physical, mental, and emotional harm with long-term effects that can last well into adulthood.”
Even if they are not physically present, children may be affected by intentional harm done by another. Children react to exposure to violence in different ways, but all too often they undergo lasting physical, mental, and emotional harm.
They suffer from difficulties with attachment, regressive behavior, anxiety and depression, and aggression and conduct problems.
Worse still, they may be more prone to dating violence, delinquency, further victimization, and involvement with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Moreover, being exposed to violence may impair a child’s capacity for partnering and parenting later in life, continuing the cycle of violence into the next generation. This means that children who are exposed to violence may be more likely to become perpetrators of violence later on.
In light of these very damaging effects, families, teachers, police, judges, pediatricians, mental health providers, child protection workers, domestic violence advocates, and others who interact with children have a responsibility to (1) prevent children from being exposed to such violence and (2) create interventions, both physical and psychological, that decrease or prevent the harm when exposure does occur.
Both of these responsibilities are important, because children who are exposed to violence have a far greater risk of being repeatedly exposed, leading to cumulative damage. These children are the most likely to suffer serious long-term physical, emotional, and mental harm.
Children’s Exposure to Violence (https://www.pdresources.org/
1. Seemingly minor incidents can have long-lasting and far-reaching consequences. Everyone – policymakers, practitioners, advocates, and the general public – must understand the degree to which children in this country live with violence in their daily lives and make a coordinated effort to help the children and their families who suffer these effects.
2. Adults like first responders who are involved in incidents of domestic violence and deal with victims in their aftermath (e.g., police, emergency room physicians and nurses, social workers, domestic violence advocates, and judges) should be aware not only of the adult victims but also of the children who may have witnessed the incident.
3. Clinicians and policy-makers need to collaborate to develop and expand effective screening tools that can identify children who are suffering emotionally, socially, physically, and developmentally so that they can reach out and help those children and their families.
About Professional Development Resources, Inc.
Professional Development Resources is a Florida nonprofit educational corporation founded in 1992 by licensed marriage and family therapist Leo Christie, PhD. The company, which is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA), the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), the American Speech-Language-