Domestic Violence Case Study

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Section I. Approximately 15.5 million children are exposed to domestic violence every year (Journal of Family Psychology, 2006). When children are present in a home where violence is present, children are 300% more likely to experience family violence (New Hanover County Health Department, 2007). Family violence creates a home environment where children live in constant fear. Children who witness family violence are affected in ways similar to children who are physically abused. They are often unable to establish nurturing bonds with either parents, peers, and/or other caring adults. Children are at greater risk for abuse and neglect if they live in a violent home.
Child abuse occurs in 70% of families that experience
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Mediating factors that help explain why exposure to domestic violence is harmful to children include disrupted parenting, coping strategies used by children, and the development of posttraumatic stress reactions, including physiological arousal (Carlson, 2000). Studies of early trauma and neglect reveal that neural structure and function within the brain can be severely affected and lead to long-lasting and extensive effects on the brain 's capacity to adapt to stress (Siegel, 2012). Children who experience traumatic stress and develop post-traumatic symptoms secrete higher levels of the glucocorticoid cortisol than youth with no trauma history (Siegel, 2012). Beginning in infancy, children form highly affective relationships, or attachments, with their primary caregivers (typically the mother) based on the infant 's need for protection, comfort, and nurturance (Zilberstein, 2006). Insecure attachment fosters the development of the self as an unworthy, unlovable person and causes one to be unavailable or hostile to others (Siegel, 2012). Poor attachment leads to poor self-esteem and self-concept that can dictate children’s behaviors well into adulthood. Children with attachment disorders often show inhibition, self-endangerment, and have often experienced violence, abuse, or parental unavailability (Siegel, 2012). Research shows that abused mothers cannot adequately attend to the demands of the attachment process while simultaneously attempting to negotiate a hostile and dangerous home environment (Buttell, Muldoon, & Carney, 2005). Consequently, children in this situation become insecurely attached and, in adulthood, exhibit excessive dependency on their partners (Carney & Young, 2012). Childhood exposure to parental shaming, insecure attachment, and physical abuse form the core of an abusive personality, which, in adulthood, leads these individuals to abuse their partners and continues the generational cycle of violence (Buttell et al.,
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