Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 277–285 | Cite as

Symptomatology of Children Exposed to Domestic Violence

  • Jeffrey N. Wherry
  • Elizabeth A. Medford
  • Kimberly Corson
Original Article


This study utilized parent ratings and self-report in assessing symptoms in children exposed to domestic violence, and in some cases, physical abuse. Data were collected from 83 parents and children in a domestic violence shelter. Children, ages 8–16, completed a questionnaire regarding exposure to physical abuse/DV and the TSCC—Alternate form (TSCC-A; Briere 1996). Parents of children, ages 3–12, completed the Trauma Symptom Checklist for Young Children (TSCYC; Briere 2005). Parent t-scores on were higher than matched t-scores for child self-report. Parent scores on most clinical scales were higher for Caucasian than non-Caucasian parents. Female children were rated as more depressed by their parents than males. Symptoms scores were positively correlated with the observation and experience of domestic violence.


Domestic violence Mental health Children Adolescents Assessment 


  1. Achenbach, T. M. (1991). Manual for the child behavior checklist/4-18 and 1991 profile. Burlington: University of Vermont, Department of Psychiatry.Google Scholar
  2. Bonomi, A. E., Thompson, R. S., Anderson, M., Reid, R. J., Carrell, D., Dimer, J. A., & Rivara, F. P. (2006). Intimate partner violence and women’s physical, mental, and social functioning. American Journal of Prevetive Medicine, 30(6), 458–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Briere, J. (1996). The trauma symptom checklist. Odessa: Psychological Assessment Resources.Google Scholar
  4. Briere, J. (2005). The trauma symptom checklist for young children. Odessa: Psychological Assessment Resources.Google Scholar
  5. Campbell, J. C. (2002). Health consequences of intimate partner violence. The Lancet, 13, 1331–1336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Campbell, J. C., & Lewandowski, L. A. (1997). Mental and physical health effects of intimate partner violence on women and children. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 20(2), 353–374.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Carlson, B. E. (1994). Children’s observations of interparental violence. In A. R. Roberts (Ed.), Battered women and their families (pp. 201–267). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  8. Chaffin, M., Wherry, J. N., Newlin, C., Crutchfield, A., & Dykman, R. (1997). The abuse dimensions inventory: initial data on a research measure of abuse severity. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 12, 569–589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cook, A., Spinazzola, J., Ford, J., Lanktree, C., Blaustein, M., Cloitre, M., DeRosa, R., Hubbard, R., Kagan, R., Liautaud, J., Mallah, K., Olafson, E., & van der Kolk, B. (2005). Complex trauma in children and adolescents. Psychiatric Annals, 35, 390–398.Google Scholar
  10. Cummings, E. M., Ballard, M., & El-Sheikh, M. (1991). Responses of children and adolescents to interadult anger as a function of gender, age, and mode of expression. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 37, 543–560.Google Scholar
  11. Edwards, V. J., Holden, G. W., Felitti, V. J., & Anda, R. F. (2003). Relationship between multiple forms of childhood maltreatment and adult mental health in community respondents: Results from the adverse childhood experiences study, American Journal of Psychiatry, 160(8), 1453–1460.Google Scholar
  12. Ellens, J. K. (2009). The effects of domestic violence, child abuse, and parenting stress on psychological distress in children. Dissertation Abstracts International, 70, Vol 70(2-B).Google Scholar
  13. Evans, S. E., Davies, C., & DiLillo, D. (2008). Exposure to domestic violence: a meta-analysis of child and adolescent outcomes. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 13(2), 131–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fantuzzo, J., Boruch, R., Beriama, A., Atkins, M., & Marcus, S. (1997). Domestic violence and children: prevalence and risk in five major U.S. cities. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 36(1), 116–122.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Felitti, V. J., Anda, R. F., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, D. F., Spitz, A. M., Edwards, V., Koss, M. P., & Marks, J. S. (1998). Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults: The adverse childhood experiences (ACE) study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 14(4), 245–258.Google Scholar
  16. Field, A. (2009). Discovering statistics using SPSS (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  17. Ford, J. D., Wasser, T., & Connor, D. F. (2011). Identifying and determining the symptom severity associated with polyvictimization among psychiatrically impaired children in an outpatient setting. Child Maltreatment, 16, 216–226.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Goodkind, J. (2004) Student Screening Questionnaire. Unpublished work, Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States.Google Scholar
  19. Graham-Bermann, S. A. (2001). Designing intervention evaluations for children exposedto domestic violence: Applications of research and theory. In S. A. Graham-Bermann (Ed.), Domestic violence in the lives of children (pp. 237–267). Washington: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  20. Greeson, J. P., Briggs, E. C., Kisiel, C. L., Layne, C. M., Ake, G. S., III, Ko, S. J., & Fairbank, J. A. (2011). Complex trauma and mental health in children and adolescents placed in foster care: findings from the national child traumatic stress network. Child Welfare, 90(6), 91–108.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Grethel, S. (2005). Correlates of psychological symptoms among children exposed to domestic violence: Severity of domestic violence exposure, child abuse, and psychosocial stressors. Dissertation Abstracts International, 65, (10-B).Google Scholar
  22. Grych, J. H., Jouriles, E. N., Swank, P. R., McDonald, R., & Norwood, W. D. (2000). Patterns of adjustment among children of battered women. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68, 84–94.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Holt, S., Buckley, H., & Whelan, S. (2008). The impact of exposure to domestic violence on children and young people: a review of the literature. Child Abuse & Neglect, 32(8), 797–810.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hughes, H. M., Parkinson, D., & Vargo, M. (1989). Witnessing spouse abuse and experiencing physical abuse: a “double whammy”? Journal of Family Violence, 4, 197–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jarvis, K., Gordon, E., & Novaco, R. (2005). Psychological distress of children and mothers in domestic violence emergency shelters. Journal of Family Violence, 20(6), 389–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Johnson, R. M., Kotch, J. B., Catellier, D. J., Winsor, J. R., Dufort, V., Hunter, W., & Amaya-Jackson, L. (2002). Adverse behavioral and emotional outcomes from child abuse and witnessed violence. Child Maltreatment, 7(3), 179–186.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Kernic, M. A., Wolf, M. E., Holt, V. L., McKnight, B., Huebner, C. E., & Rivara, F. P. (2003). Behavioral problems among children whose mothers are abused by an intimate partner. Child Abuse & Neglect, 27, 1231–1246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kilpatrick, K. L., & Williams, L. M. (1998). Potential mediators of post-traumatic stress disorder in child witnesses to domestic violence. Child Abuse and Neglect, 22, 319–330.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Levendosky, A., Huth-Bocks, A., Semel, A., & Shapiro, D. (2002). Trauma symptoms in preschool-age children exposed to domestic violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 17, 150–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lindhorst, T., Oxford, M., & Gillmore, M. R. (2007). Longitudinal effects of domestic violence on employment and welfare outcomes. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 22(7), 812–828.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Lloyd, S. (2002). The effects of domestic violence on women’s employment. Law & Policy, 19(2), 139–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Margolin, G., & Vickerman, K. A. (2007). Posttraumatic stress in children and adolescents exposed to family violence: I. Overview and issues. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 38, 613–619.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. McFarlane, J., Groff, J., O’Brien, J., & Watson, K. (2006). Secondary prevention of intimate partner violence. Nursing Research, 55(1), 52–61.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Menard, S. (1995). Applied logistic regression analysis (Sage university paper series on quantitative applications in the social sciences, 07-106). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  35. O’Brien, M., John, R. S., Margolin, G., & Erel, O. (1994). Reliability and diagnostic efficacy of parents’ reports regarding children’s exposure to marital aggression. Violence and Victims, 9(1), 45–62.Google Scholar
  36. O’Keefe, M. (1994a). Linking marital violence, mother–child/father–child aggression, and child behavior problems. Journal of Family Violence, 9, 63–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. O’Keefe, M. (1994b). Racial/ethnic differences among battered women and their children. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 3, 283–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Seery, M. D., Holman, E. A., & Silver, R. C. (2010). Whatever does not kill us: cumulative lifetime adversity, vulnerability, and resilience. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99(6), 102–1041.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Spilsbury, J., Belliston, L., Drotar, D., Drinkard, A., Kretschmar, J., Creeden, R., & Friedman, S. (2007). Clinically significant trauma symptoms and behavioral problems in a community-based sample of children exposed to domestic violence. Journal of Family Violence, 22(6), 487–499.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Stein, B. D., Jaycox, L. H., Kataoka, S. H., Wong, M., Tu, W., Elliott, M. N., et al. (2003). A mental health intervention for schoolchildren exposed to violence: a randomized control trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 290, 603–611.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Strauss, M. A. (1992). Children as witnesses to marital violence: A risk factor for lifelong problems among a nationally representative sample of American men and women (Report of the 23rd Ross Roundtable). Columbus: Ross Laboratories.Google Scholar
  42. Tonelli, K. (2002). Are there gender differences in self-report symptomatology of children and adolescents exposed to domestic violence? Dissertation Abstracts International, 63 (5-B).Google Scholar
  43. Van Horn, P., & Lieberman, A. F. (2004). Early intervention with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. In B. T. Litz (Ed.), Early intervention for trauma and traumatic loss (pp. 112–130). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  44. Wekerle, C., Miller, A. L., Wolfe, D. A., & Spindel, C. B. (2006). Childhood maltreatment. Cambridge: Hogrefe & Huber.Google Scholar
  45. Wolfe, V. V., Gentile, C., & Wolfe, D. A. (1989). The impact of sexual abuse on children: A PTSD formulation. Behavior Therapy, 20(2), 215–228.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research InstituteDallas Children’s Advocacy CenterDallasUSA
  2. 2.Human Development and Family StudiesTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA
  3. 3.Houston Public Media and the University of HoustonHoustonUSA

Personalised recommendations