Some children watching domestic violence grow into tough guys

April 29th, 2009 - 4:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, April 29 (IANS) More than 10 million US children witness domestic violence yearly, triggering a range of emotional and behavioural problems. But a new study suggests that the reason some of these children are resilient is because of their easy temperaments and because they have mentally healthy moms.
“These findings underscore the differences in how children adapt and highlight the importance of individual and family resources to face the challenges of growing up in a highly detrimental environment,” said Cecilia Martinez-Torteya, the study’s lead author at Michigan State University (MSU).

Researchers looked at more than 100 children who had witnessed violent acts against their mothers when they were two, three or four years old. They also looked at more than 70 children who hadn’t witnessed violence against their mothers.

Children exposed to violence were almost four times more likely than others to develop emotional or behavioural problems.

However, more than half of the children who were exposed to violence adapted well, at least in part because of their easy-going nature and the mental health of their mothers.

Easy-going children may be less likely to react to the stress in their lives, and more likely to get support from their caregivers and other adults.

Mothers with good mental health may be more likely to be available to their children and have the resources to help them cope with the stress of being exposed to domestic violence.

On the other hand, children who were chronically exposed to domestic violence often lacked these individual and family protective characteristics and were more likely to have emotional or behavioural problems, said a MSU release.

“Intervention efforts may be improved by targeting mothers’ symptoms of depression and considering children’s temperaments,” added Torteya

The study was published in the March-April issue of Child Development.

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