Perceptions of Family Relationships and Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms of Children Exposed to Domestic Violence

Abstract

This study examines the association between exposure to domestic violence, children’s perceptions of family relationships, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and explores the moderating role of children’s perceptions of family relationships. The sample consists of 46 children exposed to domestic violence (26 girls and 20 boys), aged 6 to 12 years, staying at housing shelters for victims of domestic violence. Children completed several questionnaires and the SAGA, a systemic tool, enabling us to examine their perceptions and family relationships. The results indicate that exposure to domestic violence is related to symptoms of anxiety and depression and to the child’s perception of father-mother and father-child relationships in both conflictual and typical situations. Perceptions of father-mother and father-child relationships in typical situations are both associated with anxiety and post-traumatic stress symptoms. In contrast, the mother-child relationship was found to have a moderating role on the relation between the duration of domestic violence exposure and the symptom of anger. This study attests to the value of continuing research on the role of the child’s perception of family relationships, but above all to better regulate the visiting and accommodation rights of fathers who perpetrate domestic violence in order to protect children, especially when they show symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

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Notes

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    This study received financial support from the Observatoire National de la Protection de l’Enfance in France (National Observatory for the Protection of Childhood)

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Paul, O. Perceptions of Family Relationships and Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms of Children Exposed to Domestic Violence. J Fam Viol 34, 331–343 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-018-00033-z

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Keywords

  • Domestic violence
  • Children exposed
  • Post-traumatic stress symptoms
  • Family relationships
  • Children’s perceptions