psychological research there a thousands of pressing questions, yet among all those questions one rises to the top of the list. In the area of family psychology and family therapy the question of the psychological affects of domestic violence on children has been hotly debated and eternally researched, yet many questions remain unanswered. These questions are pressing as the institution of family in our culture evolves and emerges as an entirely different social dynamic than existed even twenty years ago. The psychological effects of violence, in the family upon children are vast and will probably always need further address.
Many families garner a different definition as more and more family units are head primarily by one parent and many families combine to become families consisting of several members who are related only by law, rather than by genetics. These trends began many years ago but continue to change the face of the American family today and will no doubt continue to do so in the near and far future. In this proposed study the issues of the psychological effects of domestic violence upon children will be addressed through diligent research.
The problem has been clearly assessed for at least the last ten years and possibly longer as more and more information about developmental psychology leads to clearer and clearer indications of causation between parental behavior and children's behavior.
Physical marital violence, operationalized as physical assault' on an intimate partner's body, is very prevalent among families in the United States, with up to 50% of married couples experiencing spousal violence at some point during the course of their marriages (Straus & Gelles, 1990; Straus, Gelles, & Steinmetz, 1980). (Jouriles, Norwood, McDonald, Vincent & Mahoney, 1996, p. 223)
The statistics of violence within marriages are startling. Fifty percent of all marital couples at some time develop and elicit violent behaviors within the confines of their home. Within many of those homes there are vulnerable children, often times present and at least in some degree aware of the violence.
The reasons for the escalation of violence within marriages are many and often associated with poorly met expectations and lack of personal control over the circumstances of one's life. One interesting and frustrating universal is that many parents make poor psychological attempts to reassert personal control by violently controlling those in their lives who have far less control, children, a spouse or an elder parent and violence leads to violence. "Even if genes and/or brain injuries were operational here, it would be difficult to dismiss the strong environmental evidence. Violence leads to more violence. The attack induces the counterattack. " (Terr, 1990, p. 62)
The correlation between the behavior of children and the behavior of parents can clearly be seen as modeling. Children are being taught that they can assume control over their lives by perpetrating violence against even weaker members of their society, be they younger or weaker children in or out of the family, family pets, or even inanimate objects.
Relationships between physical marital violence and children's behavior problems have been investigated with some vigor over the past decade, and empirical evidence clearly indicates that children growing up in families marked by such violence are at increased risk for clinical levels of behavior problems (Jaffe, Sudermann, & Reitzel, 1992; McDonald & Jouriles, 1991). (Jouriles, Norwood, McDonald, Vincent & Mahoney, 1996, p. 223)
The numbers of studies that correlate the behavior of children with the behavior of parents are in numbers almost larger than can be counted. The studies are clear and the focus is parental teaching and training.
Clearly the case for parental intervention and parental education is vast yet, it can also be said that in a culture that values and often mandates biological parent centered care over any other, almost regardless of the internal problems in the family the conflict is clear.
Gorman-Smith et al.'s results suggest that it is useful to distinguish between family relationship characteristics (cohesion) and parenting practices (discipline practices and monitoring). These findings have direct clinical implications. They suggest that interventions that work exclusively in the parenting realm would be inadequate for treating the most serious types of adolescent conduct problems. Others, too, have made similar conclusions (cf. Bank, Marlowe, Reid, Patterson, & Weinrott, 1991; Griest & Forehand, 1982). Gorman- Smith et al. (1996) conclude that "It is not enough simply to change parents' techniques regarding discipline practices or monitoring; rather, the emotional closeness experienced within the family, as evidenced by good support, organization, and communication, may be critical to effect change in behavior (p. 126). (Dakof, 1996, p. 143)
There are parents who's skills for parenting are lacking at any given time and there are many angry parents who lack the coping mechanisms to understand the impact they have upon their children. Though intervention in this area is obviously needed it can also be argued that a partnership between parental intervention and helping the children at risk develop skills for coping with the circumstances of their lives may also help. The interest of this study will be associated with outcomes. Primarily the outcomes of successful children will be addressed. Those children who report issues of domestic violence in the home and yet overcome the obstacles and exhibit successful coping and successful psychological development in their young life and in their adult life will be the subjects of this study.
In a psychological study associating family discord, violence and stress a clear definition of the connection is made between violent childhood behavior and the level of violence and discord seen in the home.
By now, it is well established that marital discord (e.g., Emery, 1982) and violence (e.g., Emery, 1989) are linked with behavioral and emotional problems in children. The next step is to trace the etiology and understand the mechanisms behind this association, and to specify the precise nature and characteristics of the response patterns that are affected." (Cummings & El-sheikh, 1991, p. 135)
There is a clear connection between economic stressors in families and violence both among children and adults.
That last, money, may indeed be the root of all evil -- but there is no doubting that it also reduces poverty and, thus, in many instances the need to commit some violent act to get it. Money also makes people comfortable, usually happy. And just knowing that money and success are attainable is encouraging to someone who might otherwise lose all hope and resort to criminal activity, even violence, to obtain what most of us want.
(Langone, 1984, p. 188)
Yet, it is also clear that a connection between family dynamics and parental violence crosses socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds.
Using data from a longitudinal investigation of the development of delinquent and violent behavior, this study directly examines key aspects of the social ecology of economically disadvantaged, inner-city, minority, male violent offenders: family relations and parenting practices. Moreover, rather than sidestepping the issue of cultural equivalence (e.g., Knight, Tein, Shell, & Roosa, 1992), the investigators show that family relations and parenting practices have similar linkages to delinquency across ethnic and socioeconomic groups. (Henggeler, 1996, p. 137)
In these studies as well as many others the scientists wished to associate the problem behaviors of children with some of the major causations in the home. (McCord, 1996, p. 147) (Gorman-Smith, Tolan, Zelli & Huesmann, 1996, p. 115)
Focus of study/Relevance to Social Policy clear assessment of the successes of older children or young adults who have developed coping skills and psychological defenses that have led them away from personal violence or have helped them avoid ever committing behavioral transgressions, could be useful especially as a partner plan with parental intervention.
The challenge of this study will be associated with the fact that very few children who successfully cope with the aggressions they face at home, and do exhibit classic behavioral problems often never enter the system that would adequately assess their situation. In many situations children who reach the system of acknowledgement and assistance often do so either through severe school sanctions based on a new and very low tolerance for antisocial behavior, or through the remediation of a court system. Juveniles must become "delinquent" before they receive recognition and possible assistance for their problems. "Although juvenile courts have historically emphasized a philosophy of treatment and rehabilitation, the increases in juvenile violence have brought to the forefront the courts' responsibility for protecting society from dangerous individuals." (Kuperminc & Reppucci, 1996, p. 134)
The increasing severity and the destructive nature of the extremes of violence which have been so publicly presented on the national and local news and have been dramatized by the superbly popular crime television programs are making more and more people aware of the concerns that the level of violence among children is traveling in a downward spiral through the ages of children's development. "Societal pressures to deal more harshly with violent delinquents as compared to nonviolent delinquents have led the courts to begin holding violent juvenile offenders more accountable for their…