Lead author Sherry Hamby -- an associate professor at Sewanee, the University of the South, in Tennessee, and the University of New Hampshire Crimes against Children Research Center -- said children get exposed to violence between parents in a variety of ways, including hearing it, getting told about or seeing the consequences. Ninety percent of exposed children were direct eyewitnesses to at least one incident.
The study involved interviews with caregivers and youth about the experiences of a nationally representative sample of 4,549 children ages 0-17.
Hamby and University of New Hampshire colleagues found male parents and caregivers were identified as the perpetrator 69 percent of the time, female parent figures were identified 23 percent of the time, and both male and female perpetrators were identified by 9 percent of youth.
Non-cohabiting boyfriends of mothers were 11 percent of identified perpetrators, the study said.
"We want people to recognize that children's exposure to violence in the family is not limited to fights between parents," Hamby said in a statement. "They also see parents physically assault siblings and teens or adults physically assault other relatives."
The research was reported in a new bulletin released by the U.S. Department of Justice.