Children witness domestic violence that often goes unreported

"Family violence definitely cuts across all segments of society and has a serious impact on children," researcher Sherry Hamby said.
By Brooks Hays  |  April 7, 2014 at 5:25 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 7 (UPI) -- New research by the American Psychological Association (APA) suggests the watchful eyes of children offer a realistic look at the frequency of domestic violence in the U.S.

In a recent nationwide study of children who witnessed domestic violence, researchers found that an involved party was was physically harmed more than a third of the time. But only a small percentage of such incidents resulted in an arrest and only a quarter of them resulted in police reports.

"One of the most shocking findings is that less than 2 percent of the cases resulted in jail time for the perpetrator," said Sherry Hamby, lead researcher on the study and a psychology professor at Sewanee, The University of the South.

Hamby and her colleagues surveyed 517 children from across the country that had witnessed an incident of domestic abuse. The results of their research were published this week in the APA journal Psychology of Violence.

Perhaps most surprising, was the even distribution of incidents across the socioeconomic spectrum -- contradicting the stereotype that domestic abuse is relegated to poor families. While 28 percent of the abuse occurred in households with annual incomes under $20,000 and 30 percent with incomes from $20,000 to $50,000, some 18 percent of domestic violence was found in households pulling in $50,000 to $75,000 and 24 percent involved families making more than $75,000.

"Family violence definitely cuts across all segments of society and has a serious impact on children," Hamby said."

Although only one in 75 children were hurt during the violent incidents, many reported feeling scared and suffering from symptoms of anxiety.

"Parents are such big figures in a child's life. If a parent is endangered, that can threaten a child's well-being," Hamby added. "They get worried that if their parent is in danger, then who is going to protect them?"

[Psychology of Violence] [American Psychological Association]

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