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Domestic Violence and Children in a Multi-Cultural Context


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While it is understood domestic violence has an impact upon children, what may be less clear is how that impact is influenced by the developmental stage of the child and how cultural factors act as intervening variables with regard to those impacts.

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Domestic Violence and Children in a Multi-Cultural Context

  1. 1. Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
  2. 2.  This presentation discusses domestic violence and impact on children. The content of this presentation may trigger distress. Please do what is necessary to take care of your needs during this presentation in the event of distress.
  3. 3. Domestic Violence and ChildrenAges and StagesCulturePiagetian Theory and our Role as Helpers
  4. 4.  Hostile, abusive or neglectful behaviour targeted at the child directly by parent or adult in the home Child’s direct exposure to acts of violence between adults in the home as in the case of seeing, hearing or smelling abusive behaviour Child’s indirect exposure to acts of violence as when seeing bruises, broken objects, distressed parent, blood or other evidence in the aftermath
  5. 5. Ways of Being Drawn In Effects of Abuse Seeing it  Physical injury Hearing it  Death Being awakened by it  Fright Being injured by it  Being traumatized by it Being ripped from mothers arms  Sleep disturbances Having toys broken  Eating disturbances Being born prematurely  Being colicky or sick Being hit while in moms arms  Insecurity because of being Being thrown cared for by a traumatized mom  Not responsive or cuddly Source:
  6. 6. Ways of Being Drawn In Effects of Abuse Seeing it  Acting out violently Hearing it  Withdrawal Trying to stop altercation  Trouble with other kids Becoming abused themselves  Delayed toileting Being used as a physical  Eating problems weapon against the victim  Nervous, jumpy Being interrogated by  Sleep problems perpetrator about victims  Insecurity, fear and Depression activities Being held hostage by perpetrator Source:
  7. 7. Ways of Being Drawn In Effects of Abuse Seeing & hearing it  Fear & insecurity Picking 1 parent to defend  Low self esteem Physically intervening  Withdrawal/depression Calling the police Running to neighbors for help  Running away Being used as a spy against  Early drug/alcohol use Mom  School problems Forced to participate in attack on  Bedwetting Mom  Sexual activity Being physically or sexually  Becoming caretaker of adults abused to control Mom Being restricted from contact  Being embarrassed by ones with others family Source:
  8. 8. Ways of Being Drawn In Effects of Abuse Killing/trying to kill perpetrator  School problems Trying to stop the abuse  Social problems  Sexual activity Hitting parent or siblings  Shamed & embarrassed Becoming physically abused  Truancy Being used as a spy  Super-achiever at school Being used as a confidante  Tendency to get serious relationships too early to escape Being coerced by perpetrator to home be abusive to mom  Depression  Suicide  Alcohol/drug use  Confusion about gender roles Source:
  9. 9. Effects Specific to Boys Effects Specific to Girls Learning that males are violent  Learning that male violence is Learning to disrespect women normal Using violence in his own  Learning that women dont get relationships respect Confusion or insecurity about  Accepting violence in her own being a man relationships Attacking parents or siblings  Embarrassed about being female  Becoming pregnant Source:
  10. 10.  Thinking constantly about the traumatic event. Having nightmares. Avoiding places, people, or activities that re-mind them of the event. Losing interest in doing things that they liked before. Feeling alone, empty, sad, anxious, or uncaring. Becoming irritable, angry, and easily startled.
  11. 11.  Behavioral, social, and emotional problems ◦ higher levels of aggression, anger, hostility, oppositional behavior, and disobedience; fear, anxiety, withdrawal, and depression; poor peer, sibling, and social relationships; low self-esteem.
  12. 12.  Cognitive and attitudinal problems ◦ lower cognitive functioning, poor school performance, lack of conflict resolution skills, limited problem-solving skills, acceptance of violent behaviors and attitudes, belief in rigid gender stereotypes and male privilege.
  13. 13.  Long-term problems ◦ higher levels of adult depression and trauma symptoms, increased tolerance for and use of violence in adult relationships
  14. 14.  Difficulty with trust Difficulty forming relationships Mental health issues - anxiety/depression/PTSD Shame, Embarrassment Desensitization to violence and abuse which may result in an inability in both victim and perpetrator to assess risk.
  15. 15. Culture: The system of shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviours, and artifacts that the members of society use to cope with their world and with one another, and that are transmitted from generation to generation through (social) learning. (Italics mine) l
  16. 16. …shared beliefs, values, customs, Familybehaviours, and artifacts that themembers of society use to copewith their world and with oneanother… Immediate Larger Community Community
  17. 17. Infants and toddlers FamilyPreschoolersSchool ageAdolescence Immediate Larger Community Community
  18. 18.  Patriarchally organized families Isolation, Fear of racism, (I’m already different enough) Language barriers, Uncertain immigration status, Pressures to keep the marriage going Children as chattel View of “Authorities”
  19. 19. A schema is the basic building block of intelligence andserves as a representation of an aspect of the world;When new information that challenges a schema isencountered, the person goes through a process ofdisequilibrium (cognitive dissonance) until the challenge tothe schema is resolved.The disequilibrium is resolved through the processes ofassimilation and accommodation.
  20. 20. AssimilationSchema: New experience: New schema:Dog = 4 legs Dog licks and barks Dog = 4 legs Tail disequilibrium Tail Floppy ears Floppy ears furry Furry Licks Barks
  21. 21. AccommodationSchema: New New SchemaDog = 4 legs experience: CAT! = 4 legs Tail Animal Tail Ears meows! Ears Furry disequilibrium Furry Licks Licks Barks Barks Meow Meows
  22. 22. Resolution?(Depends upon experience)Assimilation:I get bullied – Im not safeanywhere; I am not of value…Accommodation:Someone intervenes and keepsme safe – Violence isunacceptable and I am ofvalue…
  23. 23.  We are here to help keep people safe and to resolve the disequilibrium: ◦ Violence is unacceptable regardless of culture. ◦ Everyone has the right to safety and security of the person. ◦ Conflict resolution is a skill that can be taught/learned. ◦ Resolving dysfunctional cognitive schema in favour of functional cognitive schema.
  24. 24.  Intervening on behalf of children subject to domestic violence with due consideration to cultural variables. [Session I–Thursday November 22: 2:45-4:15 pm] Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW