Child Witness to Domestic Abuse: Baseline Data Analysis for a Seven-Year Prospective Study

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Children who witness the abuse of their mother by an intimate partner suffer negative effects on behavioral functioning. In this study, 300 abused women seeking services for abuse were interviewed regarding how often their child had witnessed the abuse. Baseline data for this study found that boys who witnessed abuse had externalizing and internalizing behavioral problems comparable to boys in clinical treatment. Girls did not display clinically significant behaviors. For evidence-based programs to interrupt the effect of witness to violence on children, empirical data that are gender-specific are needed. Findings support the need to screen mothers for abuse during well-child visits and offer education to all mothers on the possible effects of child witness to violence in the home.

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