Final Research Paper: The Effects of Violence on Children
EDPR 4301: Early Childhood Development
December 13th, 2017 In recent years, much research has been conducted on the lasting effects of violence on children. When looking at the impacts violence has on children, it is important to look at all types of violence. Children experience violence in their homes as a victim or between family members, in their neighborhoods and in media. According to the Journal of Family Violence, children in the United States are more likely to be exposed to violence and crime than adults. According to the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, in 2014, more than one third of children were physically assaulted within the previous year (37 percent), and about half had been assaulted during their lifetime (51 percent). In the past year, 15 percent suffered some form of maltreatment (25 percent during their lifetime) and five percent reported being sexually victimized (eight percent over their lifetime). 24 percent of children in the NatSCEV study had witnessed violence in their homes, schools, and communities in the past year, and 38 percent during their lifetimes. One in 12 (eight percent) saw a family member assault another in the past year, while one in five (20 percent) had witnessed this scenario in their lifetime. These children who are exposed to violence from a young age experience lasting emotional, mental and social damage that can even affect their developmental growth, according to the United States Child Welfare Information Gateway. However, there are programs that have positive impacts of children who have experienced violence and decrease the lasting effects.
Research has proven that when children are exposed to domestic violence at a young age, they experiences many different lasting effects. According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, domestic violence can be experienced in different ways. Domestic violence could be one parent verbally abusing another, threatening to harm a family member, someone physically harming another or destroying property. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network also states that domestic violence is “behavior that one person in a relationship uses to control the other.” Lasting effects of domestic violence manifest themselves in many different ways. Violence exposure can lead to physical, psychological and social problems. Children may lose ability to feel empathy, are uncomfortable in social situations and therefore unable to make friends and feel socially isolated. They may also experience anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, other emotional problems, behavioral problems, increased risk of chronic disease, difficulties in school, alcohol abuse and drug abuse. (Cater, 2016)
“Children Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence Describe Their Experiences: A Typology-Based Qualitative Analysis” is a study that was done by Asa K. Cater and Johanna Sjogren. The study sought to better understand victims of childhood violence and the lasting effects of childhood violence by looking at how children describe their personal experiences and to identify any patterns in the children’s individual experience. Ten children who experienced father against mother violence participate in the study. The results identified three kinds of experiences. “The first type of children’s experience of IPV the researchers could identify in the children’s descriptions is constituted by violence exerted in specific situations as a consequence of the father’s inability to regulate emotions when he is drunk, loses control, and/or does not get his way.” (Cater, 2016, p.6) In these situations, the father was not violent as long as the family members obeyed him. The children expressed that the threat or potential of violence controlled their behaviors. Even though the children knew that the father could become violent, they indicated that they enjoyed spending time with him. In these situations, the children believed that their fathers anger and violence was a result of their actions. The second kind of violence the children experienced was ‘chronic and mean’ violence. In this category of experiences, the children indicated that they believed their father had an evil heart and that his anger or violence was not a result of their actions. “They describe their fathers as being bad for children, evil even when not directly using violence, as well as through their acts of violence, which are severe and escalating.” (Cater, 2016, p. 7) As a strategy to protect themselves from their fathers the children indicated that they had no desire to be around their fathers. This type of violence included things like psychological assault, repeated physical abuse, stalking and explicit threats. The third type of violence categorized in the study is ‘parenthood embedded violence’. The kinds of violence in this category were related to alcohol abuse. These children described a desire to be around their father more even though they knew he was violent and believed he was trying to be better. These children also rarely referred to their fathers actions as violent—they referred to it as just his actions. The children in this group were less detailed in their descriptions of their fathers than the other two categories and could not explain why the violence was occurring. As a whole, there were no findings of any lasting effects on the children from experiencing the violence. Although this particular study did not find any lasting effects of violence, there are many others that did.
“Traumatic Events and Maternal Education As Predictors of Verbal Ability for Preschool Children Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence” is a study that was done by Sandra Graham-Bermann, Kathryn H. Howell, Laura E. Miller, Jean Kwek, Michelle M. Lilly. Researchers interviewed 87 children of pre-school age whose mothers had been a victim of intimate partner violence within the last two years. The purpose of the interviews was to figure out the participants verbal abilities, history of violence and exposure to trauma. The participants verbal ability was tested with standard assessments and compared to children of the same age’s assessments. The children who has experienced trauma scored significantly lower that then children who had not. Based on the results of this study, there is a clear connection between children’s cognitive abilities and exposure to intimate partner violence.
In the journal article “Violence Exposure and the Development of School-Related Functioning: Mental Health, Neurocognition, and Learning” Dr. Suzanne Perkins and Dr. Sandra Graham-Bermanm discuss some of the lasting effects violence has on children. It is stated in the journal that children who experience violence are likely to develop many problems related to school including language or speech impediments and learning disabilities as well as mental health problems. According to this article, violence doubles the risk of development of PTSD and depression. The article also states that children who are exposed to violence at a young age are twice as likely to end up in special education programs that children who are not exposed to violence. Additionally, it is stated that violent abuse on children is related to deficits in reading comprehension, vocabulary, memory and executive processing. (Perkins, Graham-Bermann, 2012, p.91) All of these problems stem from neurological changes occur as a result of violence exposure. According to Dr.’s Perkins and Graham-Bermann, “one core psychological construct that is linked to both biological changes resulting from violence exposure and language development is executive function deficits (or behavioral self-regulation), which may be central to the connection between academic achievement and mental health problems after violence exposure. (2012, p. 95) Lastly, the article explains that there is a connection between the actual physical make up of a child’s brain and exposure to violence. Violence exposed children have smaller brain volumes in areas related to cognition and emotion processing, less white matter cohesion, dysfunction in dopamine rich brain regions, and altered lateralization of brain function.
“Head Start’s Impact on Socio-Emotional Outcomes for Children Who Have Experienced Violence or Neighborhood Crime” is a study that was done by Kyunghee Lee and Breanne Ludington. This study looked at the the data from a pervious study done on the impact of Head Start on children and examined the socio-emotional outcomes for the children who had ever experienced violence or crime. The study also examined three specific questions: Do family baseline characteristics differ, depending on whether children had experienced violence or neighborhood crime or not?; Does the experience of violence or neighborhood crime affect children’s socio-emotional developmental outcomes?; and Does Head Start enhance children’s socio-emotional outcomes? The results showed that with the exception of the mothers education and special needs, most of the baseline characteristics did in fact differ between the two groups of children. Children who experienced the most crime were African American or Hispanic children who had low academic skills, live in an urban setting, had more than one language spoken at home and were more likely to have a teenage mother. These children also had a “lower positive approach to learning scores, higher total behavioral problem scores and higher hyperactive scores.” (Lee, Ludington, 2016, p. 506) Additionally, the children who participated in Head Start had more positive approaches to learning and lower hyperactive scores than those who did not. Lastly, the children who had experienced violence were impacted greater from Head Start. They had lower hyperactive scores and higher closeness in child—parent relationships than the children who had experienced violence and not participated in Head Start. (Lee, Ludington, 2016, 507)
Age restrictions and rating on television, movies, music and video games have been a topic of discussion for a long time. There are debates about how old children should be before they can see certain movies or buy video games for themselves. One major area of concern that goes along with restricting certain media from children is the effects that violent media has on children, and people in general. According to a news report following the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in 2014, 20 year old Adam Lanza, who went on a shooting rampage and killed 2o children and six adults, was an obsessive video-gamer. It was reported that Lanza spent hours online playing violent video games to prepare himself for the shooting. He apparently had 83,000 online kills. The questions of whether these violent online games have any real impact on children has been debated back and forth. There has been much research done to determine the exact nature of the effects that media violence can have on children. Media is an extremely broad term and when it comes down to it, violence can be found on nearly every form of media. It is estimated that before the age of 18, children will view 16,000 murders among 200,000 total acts of violence on television alone. (Beresin) In addition to television, it is estimated that nearly 15 percent of music contains interpersonal violence. (Beresin). Research shows that children see aggression and violence on television and in movies and will imitate the behaviors in their play. Because children generally cannot distinguish between things like good and bad or fact and fantasy before the age of four, they become desensitized to violence and aggression when they are exposed to it on a daily basis on television. However, some researchers are unsure of whether or not media violence has any real influence or effect on children. Researchers cannot say with certainty that violent media directly causes children to be violent because they cannot create experiments where children are encouraged to commit violence. (Bushman, Gollwitzer, Cruz, 2014, p. 201)
The journal article “There Is Broad Consensus: Media Researchers Agree That Violent Media Increase Aggression in Children, and Pediatricians and Parents Concur” by Brad J. Bushman, Mario Gollwitzer and Carlos Cruz is based on a study that asked media psychologists, mass communication scientists, pediatricians and parents their professional opinions on whether or not violent media has a negative effect on children. In the survey completed by the participants, media referred to comic books, Internet sites, literature, movies, music, music videos, sports, TV programs, video games. The major issue being discussed was the difference between aggression and violence. Researchers define violence as “aggression that has as its goal extreme physical harm, such as injury or death” and aggression as “any behavior in- tended to harm another person who does not want to be harmed” (Bushman, Gollwitzer, Cruz, 2015, p. 201). Nearly every study’s results that were examined for the current study pointed to violent media affecting children in the sense that become more aggressive. 239 individuals who participated in the study. The results showed that 66 percent of the media psychologist and mass communications scientists agreed that violent media increases aggressive behavior in children. Similarly, 67 percent of parents ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’. Almost all pediatricians (90 percent) agreed. While everyone agreed that violent media yields increased aggression in children, the kinds of media that caused aggression were not ranked equally. The study showed that the researchers, pediatricians and parents agreed that violent video games and movies ranked the highest for aggression enhancing potential violence while violent comic books and violent literature ranked the lowest for aggression enhancing potential. Lastly, the article states that the researchers who designed the study, “believe there are at least four other forces driving the continued public debate on violent media effects: (a) journalists often report violent media research in a way that increases uncertainty about whether there is a link between violent media and aggression; (b) media industries have a vested interest in keeping the public uncertain about the link between violent media and aggression, and actively promote this uncertainty; (c) a few media researchers repeatedly claim that violent media do not increase aggression; and (d) consumers of violent media are motivated to deny violent media effects.” (Bushman, Gollwitzer, Cruz, 2015, p. 206) In conclusion, there is a general consensus that violent media may not cause violence in children, but does effect them in that they become more aggressive after viewing violence on television or online.
In conclusion, it has been researched, studied and proven that violence has negative effects on children. Children encounter violence at home, at school, in their neighborhoods and in the media. The effects of violence on children range depending on what kind of violence they witness. There are some intervention programs that can help reverse the negative effects violence leaves on children, but sometimes violence leave physical impacts on children and their brains that cannot be undone. Resources
Beresin, E. V., Dr. (n.d.). The Impact of Media Violence on Children and Adolescents: Opportunities for Clinical Interventions. Retrieved December 13, 2017
Bushman, B. J., Gollwitzer, M., & Cruz, C. (2015). There is broad consensus: Media researchers agree that violent media increase aggression in children, and pediatricians and parents concur. Psychology Of Popular Media Culture, 4(3), 200-214. doi:10.1037/ppm0000046
Cater, Å., & Sjögren, J. (2016). Children Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence Describe Their Experiences: A Typology-Based Qualitative Analysis. Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal, 33(6), 473-486. doi:10.1007/s10560-016-0443-7
Finkelhor, D., Turner, H., Shattuck, A., & Hamby, S. (2014). Children’s Exposure to Violence. Retrieved December 05, 2017
Finkelhor, D., Turner, H., Ormrod, R., Hamby, S., & Kracke, K. (2009, October). Children’s Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey. Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Retrieved December 5, 2017, from www.ncjrs.gov
Graham-Bermann, S. A., Howell, K. H., Miller, L. E., Kwek, J., & Lilly, M. M. (2010). Traumatic events and maternal education as predictors of verbal ability for preschool children exposed to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). Journal of Family Violence, 25(4), 383-392. DOI: 10.1007/s10896-009-9299-3
Lee, K., & Ludington, B. (2016). Head Start’s Impact on Socio-Emotional Outcomes for Children Who Have Experienced Violence or Neighborhood Crime. Journal Of Family Violence, 31(4), 499-513.
Perkins, S., & Graham-Bermann, S. (2012). Violence exposure and the development of school-related functioning: Mental health, neurocognition, and learning. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 17(1), 89-98. doi:10.1016/j.avb.2011.10.001
Final Research Paper: The Effects of Violence on Children