New research into the far-reaching and long-lasting harms of domestic violence to the children who grow up around it shows that witnessing abuse carries the same risk of harm to children’s mental health and learning as being abused directly, USA Today reports.
Brain imaging in infants shows that exposure to domestic violence – even as they are sleeping, or in utero – can reduce parts of the brain, change its overall structure and affect the way its circuits work together. Social workers, health care providers and academics have long tracked the effects of trauma suffered by children growing up in urban neighborhoods with frequent gunfire and other violence. But outside of medical journals, there has been little reporting on the effect of the more common domestic violence on the millions of children who grow up exposed to it. The nonprofit research organization Child Trends reported last year that 6 percent of kids nationally – about 4.5 million children – had seen or heard parents or other adults slap, hit, kick or punch each other in the home. Four percent had been exposed to or victims of neighborhood violence.