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How does IPV affect Children?

Oct 09,2022

Many times we have discussed the impacts of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) or Domestic Violence. However, the effects it can have on children are left untouched. Studies suggest that the children who have lived in traumatic households where domestic violence takes place develop long-lasting impacts on the development of the child’s brain. 

Apart from neurological development, these children are more vulnerable to developing mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, social anxiety disorder (SAD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In addition to that, children growing up in violent environments are also at risk of facing IPV themselves. 

In this article, we will discuss the detrimental impacts that IPV can have on children. 

Hampered Cognitive Development 

Facing adversities in childhood can have long-lasting impacts on a child's cognitive development. A newborn's brain is under development until the tender five years of age, facing mishaps and unfortunate events during this vulnerable age can hamper the development. Both positive and negative incidents constitute brain growth. A secure relationship with the caretaker of the child helps in the appropriate development of brain structures. Nevertheless, when a child cannot develop a secure relationship with the caretakers, high risks of developing behavioral problems can be there. They tend to become more sensitive to stressful situations. 

Trauma Among Children 

Being exposed to IPV can lead to trauma development in children. Most often victims of IPV think they can hide the assault from children, however, children can sense and hear physical violence. Screaming, hitting, crying, etc. are a few ways they can hear violence. Being raised in such fearful and tense conditions, they develop traumas that are difficult to be cured. In infants, diagnosis of trauma can be a challenge due to missing language. But some of the ways how trauma might be visible in infants can be through their habits that include bed-wetting, thumb sucking, continuous crying, poor health, easily irritated, etc. On the contrary, school-going children might respond in little different ways like poor self-esteem, social isolation, deteriorated health, etc. Furthermore, adolescents, on getting exposed to domestic violence are prone to develop aggressive behaviors. They might argue or fight with their parents, have unprotected sex, consume alcohol excessively, bully others, practice social isolation, etc. 

Mental Health Conditions 

All children with different age groups react differently to witnessing intimate partner violence. But one thing common in these individuals is that they are at a higher risk of suffering from mental health conditions. The trauma of violence can have such lasting impacts that it can lead to the development of PTSD. Furthermore, children who are exposed to IPV or have witnessed it are at a higher risk of going through psychological conditions including anxiety, depression, PTSD, substance abuse, and social anxiety. Such mental conditions become a part of the lifestyle of individuals, and can also be genetically transferred to the forthcoming generations. 

Higher Risk of Facing Abuse 

Studies have demonstrated that children who live in conditions involving violence between their caregivers are also at a high risk of being exposed to physical and sexual violence. The worst harm that a child can face even involves death. According to research, 20% of filicide cases show a history of domestic violence. Furthermore, 60% - 75% of the families where women suffer from intimate partner violence are those where children are also abused. With such a higher risk of being abused children develop fear and might as well stop believing in healthy relationships. In such circumstances, one can help children combat their fears by talking to them about their unease and apprehensions. 

Lower IQ and Memory

Witnessing domestic violence in their environment, children, apart from being at high risk of developing emotional and psychological conditions, also face impacts on their IQ and memory. Research has shown that children who have lived in violent environments involving intimate partner violence have an IQ 8-point lower than that of those who have not witnessed IPV. Various studies have found that exposure to IPV can impose negative effects on the brain structure including the hippocampus which further leads to memory problems in children. 

How to Prevent Your Child Falling Prey to Drastic IPV Effects? 

Witnessing violence can be mentally draining for children. As aforementioned, it can have numerous effects, including physical as well as mental, that can change the life of a child completely. Therefore, it is essential to create healthy and peaceful living conditions for better growth years of a child. To ensure the same, here are a few things that you can do in order to avoid the impacts of violence ruining your young ones' lives: 

  • Talking can help resolve many problems. If not, it can at least lessen the adverse impacts of witnessing violence. When you feel your child is isolating, try having a conversation. Let them know that they are safe. 

  • Witnessing IPV can make children question and fear relationships. It's important to talk them out of their fears. If required, seeking mental help can also help them combat fearsome situations. 

  • Growing up in such tense circumstances, children might normalize violence. Hence, they must know that violence is never justified or explainable. Help them learn about inappropriate behaviors and touches. On the other hand, it is also important for them to understand that practicing violence is never a way. 

  • To avoid your child being a spectator of violent behavior, leaving the partner is also a long-term solution to give your child a peaceful and safe environment to grow. 

Children are not always vocal. They might as well suffer in silence for the environment that their caregivers might be providing them. Therefore, it is crucial to keep a track of the silent signals that your child might be showing.