Impact of Domestic Violence on Children

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It is estimated that between 3.3 and 10 million American children witness domestic violence annually (Schechter amp. Edleson, 2000). In addition, it has been shown that between 40 and 60 % of men who abuse women also do not hesitate to abuse children when they are present (American Psychological Association, 1996). In fact, it has been found that in 70 % of all families reporting domestic violence, child abuse has also been present (Bowker, Arbitell amp. McFerron, 1998). Whether merely witnessing or actually feeling the heavy hand of violence, the children of the home are affected in sometimes quite profound ways. Children who witness violence display emotional and behavioral disturbances such as withdrawal, low self-esteem, nightmares and aggression against family, peers, and property (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2005, p. 1). The long-term effects of this continue the violence into the next generation as men who experience domestic violence as children tend to repeat the actions in their own adulthood (Strauss, Gelles amp. Smith, 1990) and women who experience it as girls tend to become adult victims (McDonnell, Gielen amp. O’Campo, 2003). To try to break the cycle of abuse, various interventions have been devised to help these children cope with their feelings and develop more positive means of expressing themselves. One of these intervention methods is art therapy. In the following study, art therapy is explored as an effective means of putting children in touch with their own feelings and providing them with a positive form of self-expression and realization while also demonstrating the therapeutic relationship that naturally develops between the art therapist and the child.