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How does exposure to domestic violence affect children?

​How does exposure to domestic violence affect children?

In the short term, results may include anxiety, depression, aggression, difficulty sleeping, and trouble staying focused in school. As with other forms of trauma – traumatic stress reactions may occur, with three different kinds of symptoms: hyperarousal; re-experiencing; and avoidance. Hyperarousal defines a child being fearful, nervous, jumpy, and react strongly to any other scary experience. Re-experiencing means that the child may have repeated or intrusive thoughts about what happened or keep feeling sensations in the body that are tied to what happened. Avoidance interprets to the child trying to avoid any reminders of the trauma. This may cause him or her to decline normal activities. Young children who witness domestic violence often worry about their caregivers and are afraid to be separated from them. Children may expose their distress through physical symptoms, such as stomach aches or headaches. Young children may use play to act out certain situations of what they’ve witnessed. Sometimes they just act out the same events repeatedly in their play; sometimes they express a wish to change the outcome. For example, a boy who witnessed his mother being physically abused by his father and felt helpless to intervene pretended he was a superhero who rushed in at the last minute to save her.


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