The impact of exposure to domestic abuse on children and young people

Lessons from research

Authored by: Stephanie Holt

The Routledge Handbook of Global Child Welfare

Print publication date:  February  2017
Online publication date:  February  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138942752
eBook ISBN: 9781315672960
Adobe ISBN: 9781317374749


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The past three decades have witnessed significant developments in domestic abuse research, policy and practice, not least the lens of empirical scrutiny expanding to include a deliberation of the prevalence and consequences of children and young people’s exposure to domestic abuse. This has yielded an exponential understanding concerning both its prevalence and the impact that this experience has on its youngest victims (Stanley, 2011). While earlier understandings were principally attained by eliciting the views of mothers, refuge workers and other professionals as to the impact on the child (McGee, 2000), more recent inquiry has sought to directly explore children and young people’s experience of exposure to domestic abuse from their own perspective (Overlien, 2014). This reflects a commitment to honouring the principle of ‘listening to the voice of the child’ and an increased awareness of their needs and heightened visibility in the context of domestic abuse, reflective of the core ethos of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, 1989), which recognizes and accepts children as active sentient social actors in the unfolding story of their ongoing development in family life. It further mirrors James’ (1995, p. 100) model of the social child, which envisages ‘children as research subjects comparable with adults, but understands children to possess different competencies, a conceptual modification which … permits researchers to engage more effectively with the diversity of childhood’. James (1995) suggests that while this has implications for the methods employed to study children, they are nonetheless competent both to make decisions about participation and to provide valid data.

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