Study finds babies witnessing violence show aggression later in school

June 17, 2013, Case Western Reserve University

Aggression in school-age children may have its origins in children 3 years old and younger who witnessed violence between their mothers and partners, according to a new Case Western Reserve University study.

"People may think children that young are passive and unaware, but they pay attention to what's happening around them," said Megan Holmes, assistant professor of social work at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland.

Between three and 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence each year, according the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence.

Holmes said researchers know the impact of recent exposure to violence, but little information has been available about the long-term effect from the early years of life. To her knowledge, she said her study is the first to look at the effect of early exposure to domestic violence and its impact on the development of .

In the study, "The sleeper effect of (IPV) exposure: long-term consequences on young children's ," Holmes analyzed the behavior of 107 children exposed to IPV in their first three years but never again after age 3. The outcomes of those children were compared to 339 children who were never exposed.

Those studied were from the of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW), which included children reported to for abuse or neglect. The children's behavior was followed four times over the course of 5 years.

Holmes's research examined the timing, duration and nature of their exposure to violence and how it affected aggressive behavior.

Analyzing aggressive behaviors, Holmes saw no between those who did or did not witness violence between the ages of 3 and 5, but children exposed to violence increased their when they reached school age. And the more frequently IPV was witnessed, the more aggressive the behaviors became.

Meanwhile, children never exposed to IPV gradually decreased in aggression.

Knowing about the delayed effect on children is important for social workers assessing the impact on children in homes with domestic violence, Holmes said.

"The delay also gives social workers a window of opportunity between ages 3 and 5 to help the children socialize and learn what is appropriate behavior," said Holmes, who has worked with mothers and children in shelters.

Interventions can include play and art therapies to help children work through the violence they were exposed to.

Holmes reported her findings in the spring issue of Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

"My overarching goal is to contribute to optimal development of children who have been exposed to IPV by identifying risk and protective factors that will be translated into interventions," Holmes said.

Explore further: Study looks at the impact of violence on children

Related Stories

Study looks at the impact of violence on children

February 13, 2013
It's not how much violence a child is exposed to that can create emotional and behavioral problems in life. It's exposure to a variety of different types of violence.

Preschool children at risk for stress after seeing domestic violence and another traumatic event

August 20, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Preschool children exposed to domestic violence and additional traumatic events are at increased risk for developing traumatic stress disorder, a new University of Michigan study shows.

Chain of violence: Study shows impact on Palestinian and Israeli children

August 21, 2012
Children exposed to ethnic and political violence in the Middle East are more aggressive than other children, a new study shows. And the younger children are, the more strongly they are affected, in a "chain of violence" ...

Study updates estimates, trends for childhood exposure to violence, crime, abuse

May 13, 2013
A study by David Finkelhor, Ph.D., of the University of New Hampshire, and colleagues updates estimates and trends for childhood exposure to a range of violence, crime and abuse victimizations.

New research showing how real-life exposure to violence disrupts a child's sleep habits

June 13, 2012
When violence shatters a child's world, the torment can continue into their sleep, according to researchers in Cleveland. The impact is measurable and affected by the severity of the violence, and the effects can last over ...

Recommended for you

Study: No evidence to support link between violent video games and behaviour

January 16, 2018
Researchers at the University of York have found no evidence to support the theory that video games make players more violent.

Study listens in on speech development in early childhood

January 15, 2018
If you've ever listened in on two toddlers at play, you might have wondered how much of their babbling might get lost in translation. A new study from the University of Toronto provides surprising insights into how much children ...

Study suggests people dislike you more for humblebragging than for regular boasting

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers from Harvard University and UNC-Chapel Hill has conducted a study regarding humblebragging—in which a person boasts about an achievement but tries to make it sound less boastful by minimizing it—and ...

Study identifies brain circuit controlling social behavior

January 11, 2018
A new study by researchers at Roche in Basel, Switzerland has identified a key brain region of the neural circuit that controls social behavior. Increasing the activity of this region, called the habenula, led to social problems ...

Can writing your 'to-do's' help you to doze? Study suggests jotting down tasks can speed the trip to dreamland

January 11, 2018
Writing a "to-do" list at bedtime may aid in falling asleep, according to a Baylor University study. Research compared sleep patterns of participants who took five minutes to write down upcoming duties versus participants ...

Tamper-resistant oxycodone tablets have no impact on overall opioid use

January 11, 2018
The introduction of tamper-resistant opioid tablets does not have an effect on rates of opioid use or harms at a population level, according to a new study led by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at UNSW ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

neversaidit
not rated yet Jun 17, 2013
Dexter.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.